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Dealing with Depression at College: A Patient’s Story

girl sitting in class looking down at notes

Learning About My Mental Health

Mental health is something I’ve had to learn a lot about because of the challenges I’ve faced.

I was diagnosed with major depression in my late teens, and more than a decade later took a medical leave from my graduate dual degree program at an East Coast university.

My depression would come and go. Psychiatrists through the years had prescribed a variety of medications for me. I also tried sitting in front of a light box to fight seasonal affect disorder, which helped me a lot.

Discovering DNA Testing for Depression

Eventually I found a psychiatrist at the university’s student health center.

He asked if I had ever taken a genetic test to help guide my mental health treatment, a relatively new process. The test he uses is the Genecept Assay; he receives no compensation for using it and there are other genetic tests available.

In a recent study, clinicians reported that 87 percent of their patients showed improvement with treatment guided by the Genecept Assay.

They also reported improvement in 91 percent of patients who had failed at least two medications in the past.

The test analyzes key genes, selected based on hundreds of studies showing that variations in these genes can inform treatment decisions in psychiatry. It is used to guide treatment for a range of psychiatric conditions.

Receiving My Results

My doctor consulted my test report to help select the most appropriate class of medications to use, as well as to help with dosing.

What we discovered was that I’m an ultra-rapid metabolizer of certain anti-depressants; I need high medication dosages if they are going to be effective. My psychiatrist prescribed L-Methylfolate, a biologically active form of vitamin B9, and SAMe, a supplement, and an antidepressant I hadn’t tried. SAMe didn’t help much, so I later switched to PRISTIQ®.

The big difference for me was getting off of drugs that weren’t working. I really credit the genetic testing for making a difference here. I think it’s important for student health services to offer this type of testing. In the long run it saves them money because it means students won’t stay on drugs that are expensive and not working for them.

The good news is I returned to my classes and earned my two graduate degrees.

I Am Not the Only One

The reality, though, is that there are too many other young people out there like me.

The problem seems especially acute in medical schools, where an analysis in the Journal of the American Medical Association found more than a quarter of students are depressed and about one in 10 experiences suicidal thoughts.

I understand there are more and more students arriving on campus with mental illness and seeking treatment. I think young people are likely to accept genetic testing; students embrace advancements and are eager for solutions.

In telling this story, I hope to inform and help others who may be struggling the way I was.

Disclaimer: Patients should only change treatment regimens after consultation with a licensed clinician.

Guest Author

This piece was written by a patient tested with the Genecept Assay, however this author preferred to remain anonymous.

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