As part of Depression Awareness Month, the Counseling Services Center held screenings and a student organization spread the word about important resources on Thursday.
Some students said that though these resources are important, more needs to be done for students to know about this issue. Oct. 5 was annual National Depression Screening Day, and the Mary Walker Health Center participated by providing students with in-person and online depression screenings.
The screenings, available anytime online, provide a series of questions for students to answer about depression-like symptoms they may be experiencing. If the screening indicates they are at risk for depression, the site then provides the student with related articles and contacts for counseling services on and off campus.
“I think it’s helpful for people,” freshman Melanie Soesman said about the online screening process. “Some people may be scared to go in person.”
In-person screenings were conducted at the Counseling Services Center in Mary Walker and consisted of a short, pen-and-paper screening tool. Counselors would follow up with students who took the in-person screenings, interpret their scores, and offer strategies and tools for managing symptoms of depressed mood or depression.
Everything stays confidential. Referrals and grief counselors were offered to any students who wanted them, as is always available through the health center, according to Robin McAleese, outreach coordinator for the Counseling Services Center.
“I think that there are lots of people out in the world and on our campus who are experiencing symptoms of depression and a depressed mood,” McAleese said. “[This] can be a great useful tool that gives someone the opportunity to come in for a very brief screening and sit down with a counselor to talk that through.”
Active Minds, a student-run mental health organization that focuses on changing the conversation about mental health, tabled in the Marano Campus Center Thursday and Friday. Brionna Moore, co-president, said that their tabling events help students to speak their minds and get in touch with the right resources.
There were pamphlets about hotlines and counselors as well as free stress balls for anyone to take.
“Our goal is to get people talking about these things,” said Brionna Moore, co-president of Active Minds. “There’s a lot of people that feel entirely alone.”
Active Minds emphasizes fighting the stigma surrounding mental illness, and will be tabling at an open house in the Marano Campus Center Ice Arena on National Day Without Stigma, Oct. 9. In the past, Moore said, Active Minds has seen a lack of student interaction, but this semester, the organization is getting more involved.
“Active Minds is an incredible organization. I’m glad we have their chapter on campus,” McAleese said.
Moore, however, said that the relationship between the organization and the Counseling Services Center has grown more distant than in the past.
“I feel like we need to rekindle our relationship with the counseling service,” Moore said.
More interaction and communication was a similar theme expressed by students on campus. As helpful as the resources were, some students expressed unawareness of Depression Awareness Month or National Depression Screening Day. Jill Dempsey, a senior education major, said that she feels bringing it up in class discussions would spread more awareness than through emails or posters alone.
“I think there are a lot of kids, especially on campus, who don’t have that support system. It could point them in the right direction,” Liz Wescott, senior business administration major, said.
Wescott said that bringing depression up in class may “stir up debate,” and that perhaps a better way to get students involved would be through the Lifestyle Center’s “Toilet Talk” posters.
“[It would] probably be better for more people to know about it if they need help,” said Daniel Freudenvoll, a junior information science major.
Freudenvoll said he thought classes would be the best place to spread information. Moore said Active Minds is working on involving professors more in the depression awareness effort to hopefully incorporate it into their lesson plans in the future.
“In the classroom is a great place to relay information,” McAleese said. “The counseling center enjoys a great relationship with faculty on campus.”
She said that the Counseling Services Center trains many of the faculty in recognizing the signs of depression and depressed mood.
These include disruptive sleep, loss of appetite, persistent sadness, an empty mood and feelings of hopelessness or pessimism. In the past, faculty members have helped put students in touch with counseling services. Some students, however, want to see a more active approach taken to a very serious issue.
On a national level, 1 in 4 college students have a diagnosable mental illness, but 40 percent of them do not seek professional help according to ActiveMinds.
“Depression is a very serious thing that a lot of people experience [that is] not always taken seriously,” Dempsey said. “I think that’s something that should be talked about for people who need it.”
Photo: Greg Tavani | The Oswegonian