As students make the transition from the ease of J-term into the dreaded spring semester, they are sometimes met with an overload of difficult classes, late nights and hours of homework. Throw the factor of no sleep into the concoction, and you have a recipe that would drive the most contented monk to the brink of insanity.
The life of a college student is far from easy, where one is thrust into such a world at a tender age which demands that he or she instantly develop time-management skills, a productive work ethic and the ability to go long periods of time without rest. Additionally, students often struggle to define themselves in the world around them during this time.
This comes easier for some students than others.
However, when students fail to adjust or begin to fall behind, sometimes feelings of loneliness, depression and possibly even thoughts suicide can occur.
Starting this year, Maryville College intends to combat these situations by implementing the MC Feeling Blue Awareness Program.
Feeling Blue is a program that trains resident assistants and faculty members to help those students that exhibit possible signs of depression. The campaign strives to tackle the sensitive issues of depression and suicide, especially during the winter months, when these feelings have a tendency to become more prevalent.
According to RA and Feeling Blue participant Ashley Abbot, the program benefits both the students and those trained to help them.
“Feeling Blue is a month-long event that takes the initiative to consult those that are feeling down in the dumps. Prevention of suicide is the ultimate goal, but at its base, most people are just looking for someone to talk to when they are feeling bad,” Abbot said. “The RAs are receiving training through Blount Memorial on how to spot signs of depression and suicide; all the while they are developing skills to better communicate with their residents. So the training is a double-whammy.”
Vandy Kemp, vice president and dean of students, began forming the program after being contacted by the director of the Blount Memorial Behavioral Institution, Anna Shugart, who posed the idea of having the campaign take place at MC.
“Anna called me one day and told me about this program and offered to bring it to Maryville College, and I of course was all for it,” Kemp said. “Most students are hesitant, or even embarrassed to admit that they are feeling [depressed], and therefore, they suppress their feelings, only making them worse. Feeling Blue offers an environment that students can openly express these feelings. Anna commented on the success of the program at Pellisippi State, but this would be the first time the program took place on a residential campus.”
According to Kemp, she was ecstatic about the idea of helping those students that are having difficulty in the winter months or dealing with their new class schedules.
“We assembled a team in December and discussed as to how we would implement the program during the month of February, and the feedback has been phenomenal.”
The program went a step further by advertising its mission on Facebook. The page offers information about depression and suicide, as well as insightful tips on how to handle these feelings and approach someone if he or she is exhibiting them.
On Feb. 28, the program will kick off Blue Day with a campus-wide suicide awareness event in which those participating will be wearing blue shirts reading, “Ask me why I’m feeling blue,” in order to raise depression and suicide awareness.
Participants will also be handing out brochures and pamphlets offering information on depression and suicide.
At 7:30 p.m., the event will end with guest speaker Karyl Chastain, who will discuss the seriousness of suicide and how students can prevent it.
Chastain is the mother of a son who was the victim of suicide and travels around college campuses to offer insight and provide awareness to those who are in need of it.
The Feeling Blue program will end on March 13 with a worship service touching on the spiritual aspects of depression.
For additional information regarding the Feeling Blue program, contact Kemp at [email protected].