Wellness Topics

Called "the common cold of mental illness", depression is normally highly treatable when the individual receives adequate care. If you are this individual, don't hesitate to reach out for help. Get informed and learn about cures and prevention. Just like vitamins and plenty of fluids defend against a cold, realize that a healthy lifestyle and positive activities will serve as a defense against depression. This mental illness is your body's way of informing you that something is amiss and needs attention - your body gives off this warning signal in hopes that it can be repaired. Depression is a gateway to growth, self-awareness and knowledge. Be hopeful and patient with yourself.

It is normal on occasion to feel sad or "blue". These unpleasant emotions can be caused by internal and external circumstances, such as financial difficulties, illness, being negative or over critical. At times it is even normal to have intense feelings of sadness or distraught. These powerful feelings can become disruptive and have an impact on our everyday lives. When we grieve the loss of health, employment, a relationship or an individual, we go through a state of extreme sadness. However, these feelings can diminish on their own as time goes by.

Depression develops when extreme sadness lasts more than two weeks and disrupts everyday activities. These consuming feelings impact class attendance, sleep, appetite, joy of living, stamina, concentration on important tasks and social behavior. Typically, depressed individuals feel helpless and their sense of self-worth plummets, with little or no improvement as time passes. Relationships suffer and for some, the despair is so encompassing that suicidal thoughts invade their minds. The entire body can be affected because this mental illness is accompanied by changes in the brain chemistry. Depression is therefore a medical condition that requires treatment.

According to the National Institute for Mental Health, in 2014, 9.3% of young adults in the United States ages 18-25 suffered from major depression.
It is estimated that one out of four North Americans will experience some form of depression in their lifetime. More women than men suffer from depression, possibly due to hormonal differences. (Ilardy)

Additional information about depression and preliminary depression screening: here.

More information about college students and depression can be found here.

1. Ilardy, S. (2010). The Depression Cure: The 6-Step Program to Beat Depression without Drugs. Cambridge. MA: Da Capo Press.

BYU-Idaho Resources

Additional Resources

Stress

See that all things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength. Mosiah 4: 27. A certain amount of stress in life is desirable and there is even a name for it: Eustress. Eustress keeps us on our toes and motivates us to take action, pursue our efforts until we reach our goals, or make necessary changes to improve health, circumstances and relationships. As long as our personal supplies are sufficient to meet life’s requirements we feel a sense of control and accomplishment. We typically feel stress when experiencing a discrepancy between our challenges and current available resources, or what we perceive our resources to be. Our fast-paced modern society makes high demands on us regarding our time, money, values and allegiances. Through social media we are constantly exposed to others’ accomplishments and successes, and inevitably we put pressure on ourselves to improve our own performance. Common sources of stress for students are homework, tests, juggling work and school, social isolation, dating, roommates, money, time management and medical issues. Stress has become a constant for most of us, taxing our body with high levels of stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenalin which affect many functions such as digestion, inflammation, blood pressure, and intellectual capacities like concentration and memory. More than ever, it is imperative to learn how to manage stress effectively.

Healthy ways to handle stress include1:

  • Change something about the cause of stress, or stressor, such as eliminating all or parts of it.
  • Change our view of the stressor, such as enlarging our perspective, using humor, noticing the good in the stressor and imagining the purpose or the end result of the challenge. “Thou has suffered afflictions and much sorrows…thou knowest the greatness of God; and he shall consecrate thine afflictions for thy gain.” 2 Nephi 2:1,2.
  • Change our capacity to handle the stressor by increasing current resources, by developing certain skills such as time management, spiritual connection to the Spirit, communication, especially about our needs, connection to community resources, work/play balance, friends and family support, etc. Other skills are more directly related to supporting the body like proper nutrition and sleep, exercise, relaxation and meditation.

1 Source: Managing Stress as a College Student by Michael Maughn, Ed. Brigham Young University. See full article under Additional Resources

Anxiety

Sometimes, our stress response turns into what it is called anxiety which is a state of being incredibly uneasy, apprehensive, worried and filled with dread about what might happen. More often than not, the feared events don’t ever happen. There are several ways anxiety expresses itself, but the most commonly reported among college students are:

  • Generalized anxiety or extreme worry about all sorts of things that might or could go wrong (finances, relationships, health, classes, tests, work, etc.). Individuals with generalized anxiety typically report feeling on edge, being easily tired, irritable, difficulty sleeping, difficulty concentrating and muscle tension. They often complain of feeling depressed as well.
  • Test anxiety is extreme distress and fear during testing that causes the mind to go blurry or blank, resulting in marks that are lower than they should have been. Test anxiety is a form of performance anxiety. Test anxiety can affect learning.
  • Social anxiety is fear of being exposed to others’ possible scrutiny or judgments through social interactions, especially in group settings or when performing in front of others. Typically, people with social anxiety avoid certain situation where they could feel extremely uncomfortable and freeze up when interacting with others. They may feel isolated as a consequence and doubt their ability to make friends.
  • A Panic attack is experiencing an overwhelming and debilitating onslaught of intense fear that reaches a peak within a few moments accompanied with pronounced symptoms of physiological arousal, such as: rapid heartbeat, palpitations, sweating, trembling, shaking, nausea, dizziness, numbness, feeling disconnected from one’s own body, fear of going crazy, losing control or fainting.
  • Separation anxiety is experiencing an intense, excessive and lasting fear and trepidation as a result of being separated from loved ones and familiar surroundings. This type of anxiety is less common in older adolescents and young adults. Often sufferers complain of physical symptoms such as headaches and stomachaches.

Take a screening test to find out if you have anxiety: http://www.byui.edu/counseling-center/self-help/anxiety

BYU-Idaho resources

Brigham Young University-Idaho offers a variety of aids for those students who simply desire to improve their ability to deal with stress and for those for with unmanageable anxiety.

Additional resources

The following websites/apps provide tools to effectively cope with stress:

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), “There is a commonly held view that eating disorders are a lifestyle choice. Eating disorders are actually serious and often fatal illnesses that cause severe disturbances to a person’s eating behaviors. Obsessions with food, body weight, and shape may also signal an eating disorder. Common eating disorders include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder.” Research suggests 5% of the population will develop an eating disorder or disordered eating (subclinical eating disorders meaning behaviors that do not meet full criteria for eating disorders but are problematic and serious nevertheless) at one point or another. Many more young people are at risk for developing disordered eating/eating issues due to poor body image, partially caused by social criteria of beauty which, in the Western culture, favor thinness. Typical age for the onset of eating disorders is 12-13 years old. Teenagers’ lives are very affected by eating disorders which impair normal functioning, intensify anxiety, depression and suicidality. Many teens continue to struggle in college.

What is anorexia

This illness is characterized by self-starvation which is achieved by skipping meals and eating only very small amounts of selected foods deemed to be “safe” to eat such as green leafed vegetables. Often sufferers engage in purging behaviors (induced vomiting after eating and drinking, even water) and practice excessive exercising in the hope to lose more weight. They are obsessed with weight gain and have a distorted view of their own body which to them is larger than it is in reality, hence their continuous efforts at losing more weight.

What is bulimia

Bulimia is a life threatening disorder characterized by weekly episodes of binge eating (eating large quantities of food) followed by stringent restricting of caloric intake and ingestion of large amounts of laxatives and diuretics to aid with elimination, and/or excessive exercising. Just like anorexia, bulimia includes dissatisfaction with body weight and shape. Typically, youth suffering from bulimia appear normal weight, but they tend to act in unusual ways: they may withdraw socially in order to make time for binge eating and purging or they may no longer participate in activities they used to enjoy due to body image issues, digestive problems, and shame.

What is binge eating disorder

This illness is characterized by recurrent episodes of eating large amounts of food (often very fast and to the point of discomfort), but no purging or other compensatory measures follow like in bulimia. Rather, after a binge, sufferers feel gross, shameful, guilty and distressed. Binge eating is the most common eating disorder in the United States (1.6% of the population vs. .03% for anorexia and .08% for bulimia). Severe obesity is a common consequence of binge eating, but of course, not everyone struggling with obesity has binge eating disorder.

Needless to say, all eating disorders can cause serious medical, behavioral and emotional complications. For those reasons, treatment requires a multi-disciplinary professional team approach (doctors, dieticians and mental health professionals). Often, patients will require inpatient or intensive outpatient interventions.

For detailed information about eating disorders, including symptoms, treatment and recovery, go to http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org (NEDA)

Take a simple screening test to find out if you may have an eating disorder by entering this address into your browser: http://ceed.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/scoffqairehandout.pdf. The SCOFF questionnaire will help you determine if you should undertake further evaluation.

BYU-Idaho Resources

  • Counseling Center: Click on Self Help to find information on eating disorders. Counseling Center professionals will assess and make recommendations for treatment. Because of the nature of those illnesses, students may need to be referred out in the community for intensive and lengthy treatment.
  • Student Health Center: 208-496-9353

Additional Resources

The use of pornography in our modern world has become so widespread that it was declared a public health crisis. This affects not only individuals, both men and women, but also families, and future generations. Pornography is toxic to the whole environment. 1 According to recent statistics, 27% of young adults between the ages of 25 and 30 report viewing mainstream, sometimes known as hard-core pornography, before puberty. 2

In many instances, individuals first view pornography out of curiosity or find it accidentally. Because of the strong sensual pleasure pornography elicits (with or without masturbation), individuals may fall into the habit of viewing it whenever they feel the need to escape from their problems. This is why consumers of pornography often fall behind their peers in emotional maturity and resilience when facing life’s challenges. In addition, the secrecy of the practice leads to personal shame, isolation, decrease in sense of personal worth, spiritual enjoyment and loss of self-control. Once firmly lodged in the nervous system, the habit of pornography viewing becomes compulsive. Other consequences include lying to friends and loved ones, inability to be transparent in relationships, objectification and sexualization of others (especially women), dissatisfaction in marriage, hyper-sexuality and sexual deviancy in teens, and loss of precious time.

For a minority of unfortunate consumers, the compulsive habit can turn into a serious addiction, meaning that in order to achieve the desired level of sensual satisfaction, more and more stimulation is required. This can lead to extremely risky sexual behaviors such as exhibitionism, child abuse, rape, prostitution, and child pornography. Needless to say the personal, familial and societal costs of pornography are colossal.

Jesus saw sin as wrong but was able to see sin as springing from deep and unmet needs on the part of the sinner. This permitted Him to condemn the sin without condemning the individual... We need to be able to look keenly enough into the lives of others to see the basic causes for their failures and shortcomings. President Spencer W. Kimball (Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p. 481)

If you or someone you know and love is caught in the trap of pornography, help is available. Remember that a sexual addiction whether mild or severe is not a sex problem; rather it is a destructive way of coping with life’s numerous challenges. Partners, especially girlfriends and wives, of individuals who compulsively engage in pornography viewing and other sexual acting out should not think they are responsible for their partner's behaviors.

It is never too late to learn life skills! Bad habits can be reversed and health can be restored and enhanced. There is so much hope. Don't give up! Reach out for help. Very few overcome sexual compulsive behaviors on their own. There are several available treatment options, both for the person struggling with the addiction as well as their loved ones.

1 Vauna Davis, Feb 2016 in http://utahcoalition.org/scr9-resolution-public-health-crisis-pornography/

2 Barna Group, The Porn Phenomenon: A Comprehensive New Survey on Americans, the Church, and Pornography, (April 2016), https://www.barna.org/blog/culture-media/barna-group/porn-press-conference#.VrS9OrSJndl.

BYU-Idaho Resources

  • LDS Family Services Programs offers 12-step meetings available on campus, consult www.ldsfamilyservices.org or call 208-529-5276. There are meetings for spouses as well.
  • Campus Ward Bishops
  • BYU-Idaho Counseling Center: Offers second-tier counseling for those who have tried the 12-step meetings but still need additional help. Couples’ counseling is also available as long as one of the partners is a student currently taking classes. 208-496-9370

Other Resources

After serving her mission, Kenzie came home and was eager to attend school again. She had not told anyone, but had hoped by serving the Lord full-time for 18 months she would overcome a secret sexual and emotional attraction to women. During her senior year in High School, she had felt strongly attracted to one of her female friends. Back then, it took a lot of self-control, will power and prayers to keep her feelings hidden and in-check. She liked guys too, “thank goodness”, she said to herself. She was hoping she would come to BYU-Idaho, fall in love with a healthy young man, and no longer have to worry about the other aspect of her natural attraction which, by then, would be gone or mostly gone. She was shocked when she walked into her new apartment and found herself moved by one of her roommate’s gentle beauty and kindness toward her. As the semester unfolded, her liking for that roommate grew; and the more it grew, the more anxious, distressed and depressed Kenzie became. The topic of marriage, which is often brought up in classes and campus gatherings became painful to her to the point she lost all hope of having a happy “Mormon” life. She was frightened and very sad when she eventually reached out to a professor who, from comments made in class, seemed open minded and non-judgmental of “gays”. The professor accompanied Kenzie to the Counseling Center where she was diagnosed with major depression disorder.

Where the Church Stands:

The experience of same-sex attraction is a complex reality for many people. The attraction itself is not a sin, but acting on it is. Even though individuals do not choose to have such attractions, they do choose how to respond to them. With love and understanding, the Church reaches out to all God’s children, including our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters. .” http://www.mormonsandgays.org/

Being gay, having gay feelings or SSA (same sex attraction) is a burden carried by many young, and not so young people in the church. They desire to live the Gospel of Jesus Christ which precludes the practice of homosexuality, yet they cannot deny the simple fact they are sexually attracted to the same gender. Some cannot even conceive being in an intimate relationship with someone of the opposite sex. A significant number of individuals feel trapped in a seemingly unresolvable dilemma: Leave the Church and live the gay lifestyle as encouraged by society, or continue in the faith and remain celibate with little hope of finding satisfaction in the traditional marital union. It is no wonder that young inexperienced people, end up discouraged, frightened, depressed, and, at times, even suicidal. Quoting an article on a Church website, “Few topics are as emotionally charged or require more sensitivity than same-sex attraction. This complex matter touches on the things we care about most: our basic humanity, our relationship to family, our identity and potential as children of God, how we treat each other, and what it means to be disciples of Christ.”(http://www.mormonsandgays.org/ Is there a reason to hope to undo such a dilemma, or are gays and bisexuals condemned to live in a state of renunciation of personal identity or of faith? There is always hope, and there is help. Many folks have found a way to resolve the dilemma in a healthy manner that brought their suffering to an end. With the support of family and/or friends, knowledge, spirituality, resources, professional guidance - if needed, and time, it is possible to be at peace.

BYU-Idaho Resources

Counseling Center: 208 496 9370 (please include active link)

Other Resources

http://www.mormonsandgays.org/

Ty Mansfield (2011) Voice(s) of Hope—Latter-day-Saint Perspectives on Same-Gender Attractions- An Anthology of Gospel Teachings and Personal Essays.

http://northstarlds.org/ North Star is a faith (LDS) affirming organization whose purpose is to support and provide resources to those with same gender attraction and gender identity issues who desire to live the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is not sponsored by the LDS church, however. The home page itself provides essential links to talks, statements, etc.

Students can experience extremely destabilizing mental health crises for various reasons from academic struggles to romantic break ups or problems at home. When one’s distress exceeds one’s perceived ability to cope, and no solution is foreseeable, it is not uncommon for thoughts of suicide to emerge. Suicidal thoughts are scary and often lead students to reach out for help, but sometimes, levels of suicidality intensify that could or do result in a suicide attempt. Thankfully, suicidality is not typically a quiet and invisible intruder. Here are the common warning signs that someone is thinking about suicide:

  • Talking about wanting to die or to kill oneself
  • Macabre preoccupation with death
  • Themes of death or depression in conversation, writing of reading art
  • Withdrawn of feeling isolated
  • Talking about being a burden to others
  • Talking about not wanting or not being able to go on
  • Talking about feeling hopeless or having no joy and no reason to live
  • Being overwhelmed, agitated and acting recklessly
  • Displaying extreme mood swings
  • Loss of interest in things that one normally cares about
  • Looking for a way to kill oneself, such as searching online or buying a gun, or stashing drugs
  • Giving things away, such as prized possessions
  • Visiting or calling people to say goodbye
  • Making arrangements; setting one’s affairs in order

What to do

If you struggle with suicidal thoughts and those thoughts intensity and lead to wanting to take action, seek help immediately by calling a crisis line, going to the campus Counseling Center/Student Health Center and asking for a crisis consultation, or going to the nearest ER.

How to Help Someone

It is important to remember that talking about suicide will NOT push someone to suicide. More importantly, suicide is preventable and efforts to help another person are almost always met with agreement and relief. Your willingness to talk about mental health concerns and suicide with a friend, family member, roommate, colleague, or peer may be the first step in getting them help and preventing suicide. Below are tips for beginning a conversation if you see the warning signs for suicide.

  • Take it seriously
  • Do not leave them alone
  • Listen to the problem and give them your full attention
  • Avoid rushing to judgment or using a confrontational tone
  • Let the person know you are concerned and you care
  • Don’t be afraid to ask whether they are considering suicide or have a plan in mind
  • If the person is reluctant, it is okay to be persistent (remember, they may be used to keeping these thoughts and feelings a secret!)
  • Acknowledge their current pain is legitimate
  • Try to avoid minimizing the problem (e.g. convincing them things aren’t that bad)
  • Avoid problem-solving and advice giving: it can leave them feeling misunderstood and more hopeless
  • Help them remove lethal means like firearms and drugs
  • Offer hope in any form: reassure them help is available and suicidal feelings are temporary
  • Offer to escort them to an emergency room, counseling center, or psychiatrist
  • Never keep a plan for suicide a secret
  • Get others involved. Ask the individual who else might help
  • Take care of yourself!

Brigham Young University-Idaho Resources

Counseling Center: 208-496-9370 (please create a link for each of the following)
Student Health Center: 208-496-9353
24/7 Campus Suicide Hotline: 208-496-HELP (4357)
Dean of Students: 208-496-9200

Community Resources

Madison Memorial Hospital Emergency Room: 208-359-6900 450 E. Main St, Rexburg
Rexburg City Police: 208-359-3000 or 911
Ambulance Service: 208-359-3006

Other Resources

24/7 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273 TALK (8255). Option for deaf or hard of hearing
1-800-799-4889
Idaho Suicide hotline: -1-800-398-HELP (4357) – call or text same number 3 PM-Midnight M-F
Idahosuicideprevention.org
Facebook.com/IdahoSuicide Prevention