By Caroline Gerdes | LSU Student
Commercials and seasonal programs depict characters at fun-filled holiday parties, surrounded by family and friends. They share a tantalizing meal and good cheer, before opening a mountain of fancily packaged gifts.
For many, however, this is not a usual holiday celebration, notes Ashley Granger, health promotion coordinator at the Louisiana State University's Student Health Center.
Unfortunately, she says, people see what the holidays "should be like" and are sad when "they don't have it."
For a student, this feeling of falling short can be caused by a myriad of things, including one's first Christmas away from home. Other scenarios also can be the first Christmas after losing a loved one, divorce, or a break up.
"[There's a] a correlation with holidays and depression. Period," she said.
Granger said students feel a burden at the end of the semester, causing appointments to jam up at the mental health center. Holidays are one reason, but she warned that there are several other stress situations for students this time of year – anxiety about graduation, making the next life move and an anxiety to perform on finals.
Granger said the beginning of the semester is slow at the mental health center, but added that New Year's resolutions cause the dietician to book up quickly.
According to the National College Health Assessment 2011's executive study for LSU, students' academics were impacted more by stress, lack of sleep, depression and anxiety than by partying and drinking — contrary, says Granger, to what many assume.
She said the frequency for stress and depression exists because students are learning how to thrive away from home.
"[Students are] expected to function and manage … life as an adult."
She adds that some students were not given the tools to prepare for independence. For example, some parents managed medication and pushed therapy during childhood, with little responsibility placed on the patient.
Other students develop unhealthy coping mechanisms or feel they have lost their support group, according to Granger.
Though the end of the semester can be a hard time for students, Granger cautioned that depression happens throughout the year. The health center provides free group and individual therapy for full-time students and those who have paid the health center fee, she said.