“I talk to depressed people and try to make them happy, and it makes me happy,” said Gab (not his real name), an engineering student who left Silliman University (SU) for an off semester after surviving attempted suicide three times.
Gab said that no one diagnosed him as depressed and suicidal. He said that his church mates saved him. At first, it was hard for him to accept that he’s been depressed for three years. A long distance relationship almost made him kill himself.
“I hid this from a lot of people and I shrugged it off every time [they] asked if I was okay. No doctor ever diagnosed me and I hated seeing a psychiatrist because I thought I could win this,” he said.
Gab said that he looks for people to talk to when he feels depressed.
“Sometimes when I get too depressed, I call almost every single number on my phone until someone rings. Most of the time they do, but sometimes they don’t and I cry. Some nights I just wake up crying,” said Gab.
Although he chose to leave the university for the meantime, Gab said he feels better now, especially that people around him understand his situation.
Prof. Jaruvic Rafols, the SU head of the Guidance and Testing Division (GTD), said that many students are ashamed to express that they are depressed.
Like Gab, people who are experiencing depression can’t diagnose themselves, according to Rafols.
“We encourage them to be expressive, so they can be referred to someone who can assist them,” Rafols said.
GDP and the Silliman church are working on programs to assist students in adjusting to university life.
Parents, faculty, staff, and other professionals may consult with counselors on issues affecting mental health of students and other individuals. Counselors consult to facilitate the assistance needed by students.
However, Rafols said that guidance counselors have limits. This is why the GTD would choose to refer the student to a psychiatrist with the consent of the student and the parents.
There were two reported suicidal cases in the university. Although these were not academic-related, Rafols said it is still part of their concern.
With the guidance and testing program, Rafols hopes that students can express their concerns so that the GTD can also assist them.
“We always emphasize [to students] to reach out if there’s a need in adjustment,” Rafols said.
He added that the Personality Enhancement Program (PEP) is their initial step to have a personal discussion with students.
PEP is a required, non-credit course for first year students. All first year students undergo two semesters of PEP and target self-development in relation to peers.
The Silliman University Counselling Advocacy Research and Evaluation Education Services or SU CARES also counsels and assists faculty and staff in the community.
Rafols also said that a “strong support system” from family, friends, and classmates can help people who are depressed and suicidal. Change in behavior, isolation, and extreme mood swings are alarming signs of depression.
Students who are still afraid or ashamed to do counselling may text the Silliman hotline at 09177071901 to do private consultations.
By Leslie J. Batallones and Cheri Lian V. Ansale