Antidepressants Among the Youth

Gessele Malubag

Being a college student isn’t easy. These students undergo trials and tribulations during their early years of adulthood, and many of these problems create mental challenges which can lead to the usage of antidepressants. There are many different kinds of antidepressants, and each of them have their own symptoms and side effects. Some of these antidepressants include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, otherwise known as SSRIs, as well as serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors, called SNRIs, and atypical antidepressants.

They are used to treat various mental illnesses and conditions such as depression, anxiety and insomnia. But what causes students to develop these mental illnesses and conditions? According to the Mayo Clinic, some situations that can cause depression and anxiety in college students are stressful life events, sexual identity adjustment difficulties, sexual assault, comparison of academic, athletic or social performance to peers, fears of dissappointing parents/guard- ians because of grades or career path choice, and more.

The effects of these medications can vary between each user. Third-year student Abigail Custodio shared her experience with antidepressants.

“When I first started taking antidepressants, I wasn’t necessarily sure it would help me. It wasn’t until two weeks in that I started to notice change,” Custodio said. “It felt like things weren’t so heavy anymore. I slowly started feeling like I had more control over my life.”

Antidepressants can not only improve day-to-day feelings and emotions, but can be lifesaving for some.

“Being on antidepressants saved my life,” said third-year student Jenna Jariabek. “Coping and other ways can be done to get through depressive episodes without medication, but for a period of time, I truly needed medication for chemical balancing.”

Depression is a mood disorder that can occur when there is a chemical imbalance in the brain. Neurotransmitters are the chemical messengers that send signals to parts of the body. However, depression affects these neurotransmitters, which causes a change in the levels of serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain. These levels can be changed or improved by using antidepressants.

Other ways to cope with mental health conditions include therapy, self-care, and reaching out to friends and family. These strategies can alleviate negative symptoms, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Although antidepressants can be the most helpful to some users and alleviate poor mental health symptoms, they can also have negative effects. Each antidepressant has its own side effects, and some have more serious effects than others.

“A major issue with taking antidepressants was that it made my anxiety worse. As the dosage got higher, I became irritable, struggled with discipline for getting my work done, and it negatively impacted my appetite and sleep schedule,” Jariabek said.

Sometimes, the side effects do not last for the duration of using antidepressants. Some users’ side effects diminished within a certain amount of time.

Custodio had her own negative experience. “I felt light- headed for the first week, which I was informed of by my psychiatrist and she recommended I take it at night,” she said. “I did feel an increased codependency, where I felt I needed extra physical and emotional support. There were also nights where I had insomnia, but progressively the symptoms subsided.”

As many college students are experiencing life and situations while studying to earn their degrees, it is common for them to be on medication due to stress. The National Library of Medicine has done extensive research and found that “the proportion of college students who have taken psychiatric medications of all categories has risen in the last decade,” and that “these students are increasingly likely to be on more than one kind of psychiatric medication and be treated by healthcare providers at a greater frequency.” In their research, they found that the percentage of university students who were taking antidepressant medication increased from 8.0% to 15.3%