Understanding depression, suicidal behaviors, grief and loss 

It is normal for all of us to experience some level of sadness. Grief and loss is also another life experience that all of us go through one way or another. It does not always necessarily mean death; it could be a loss of an expectation, a dream, or a perceived future; it could also be a loss of a job, status, health, significant relationships and other meaningful attachments in our lives. Sadness as well as grief, are both universally experienced emotions and conditions of the hurting soul. However, we do not really know at times, if our sadness or grief is already bordering "clinical depression".

Clinical depression

In the online resource section of the counseling center website, the link to depression offers more comprehensive guide in understanding more about the complexities and intricacies of depression. It is always helpful to learn that there is what we call situational depression that most of us experience, and it is important to be able to distinguish it from clinical depression.

Typical depressive symptoms may indicate the following:  

  • Persistent sad, empty, or anxious mood
  • Loss of interest in ordinary activities, including sex
  • Decreased energy, fatigue, feeling slowed down
  • Sleep disturbances like insomnia, early morning waking, or oversleeping
  • Eating disturbances like loss of appetite and weight, or weight gain
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, and making decisions
  • Feeling of guilt, worthlessness, and helplessness
  • Irritability
  • Excessive crying
  • Chronic physical pain and aches that don't respond to treatment
  • Thoughts of death or suicide, or history of suicide attempts;
  • Feelings of hopelessness and pessimism

If these symptoms persist on a regular daily basis with increasing intensity, and is prolonged for more than two weeks, without help or intervention, it begins to interfere with our daily lives. It begins to affect the general ability to function. For students, this may mean affecting academic performance, social and relational life, as well as general emotional well being. This condition, if left untreated, becomes clinical depression.

Grief and loss

The grief and loss online resource offers more in depth information on understanding the stages, coping mechanisms and interventions for grief and loss. Most importantly, it provides good information in understanding the complexity of a condition also known as complicated grief involved in clinical depression, which is different from a normal bereavement or grief process.

Distinguishing between grief and clinical depression isn’t always easy, since they share many symptoms. However, there are ways to tell the difference. Remember, grief is a roller coaster. It involves a wide variety of emotions and a mix of good and bad days. Even when you’re in the middle of the grieving process, you will have moments of pleasure or happiness. With depression, on the other hand, the feelings of emptiness and despair are constant.

Other symptoms that may suggest depression, and not just grief:

  • Intense, pervasive sense of guilt.
  • Thoughts of suicide or a preoccupation with dying.
  • Feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness.
  • Slow speech and body movements
  • Inability to function at work, home, and/or school.
  • Seeing or hearing things that aren’t there.

Suicidal behaviors:

Suicidal behaviors are normally observed to be correlated to chronic and clinical depression as well as "complicated grief". Its sheer complexity and sensitivity as well as its critical nature require mental health professional consultations and assessment; it may at times entail law enforcement, legal/court, campus public safety (and at times, school administration) intervention and involvement.

Reporting suicidal behaviors is a link that offers more information on where to get consultation, who to consult and examples of warning signs that can benefit from a consultation and a timely and appropriate intervention.

When is it an appropriate time to seek professional help and consultation?

For symptoms of clinical depression: If you notice any (or all) of the above symptoms for depression persisting for more than a week or two, and is now starting to interfere with your ability to function, feel free to call your physician, or the counseling center at 360-438-4371 to consult with our counselors.

For suicidal behaviors: One very important area of concern that requires consultations with mental health professionals involve suicidal behaviors. Refer to the reporting suicidal behaviors link for more details.

For grief and loss - if you recognize any of the above symptoms of complicated grief or clinical depression, talk to a mental health professional right away. Left untreated, complicated grief and depression can lead to significant emotional damage, life-threatening health problems, and even suicide. But treatment can help you get better.

Contact a grief counselor or professional therapist if you:

  • Feel like life isn’t worth living
  • Wish you had died with your loved one
  • Blame yourself for the loss or for failing to prevent it
  • Feel numb and disconnected from others for more than a few weeks
  • Are having difficulty trusting others since your loss
  • Are unable to perform your normal daily activities

The counseling center will assist in finding referrals in the community that will better address your needs.

The counseling center is dedicated in continuing to provide educational materials that we hope will serve as additional help and benefit to you. Your emotional well-being as well as your academic success are of utmost importance to us!