Depression is a serious mental health issue on campus. Anxiety is still the biggest issue facing Oles, with 92 percent of Oles feeling too overwhelmed to function at least once a year, but depression is catching up. Out of the 503 students the Counseling Center saw last year, 183 were concerned about depression. Depression is also the leading disability for people ages 18 to 44 in the U.S.
Symptoms of depression include unhappiness, irritation or frustration over small matters, loss of interest in normal activities, insomnia or excessive sleeping and changes in appetite and irritability. Quite often, depression also includes feelings of worthlessness or guilt, trouble thinking or concentrating and frequent thoughts of death, dying or suicide. But according to Counseling Center Administrative Assistant Diane Von Ruden’s email advertising the screening, “depression is an illness and effective treatments are available.”
With these facts in mind, the Counseling Center offered a free, confidential depression screening to students, faculty and staff on Oct. 17. During the two time slots offered, Oles followed three steps. First, they filled out a nationally-recognized form that asked questions about depression, anxiety, post traumatic stress disorder and bipolar personality disorder. While they were doing this, they watched an informational video. Afterward, they met with a counselor to discuss their results. If this one-on-one meeting and the survey suggested the Ole might be depressed, they were referred to the Counseling Center or off campus, for faculty for further treatment.
The screening was part of National Depression Screening Day, though technically that day was on Oct. 11 this year. The purpose of the screening day was to create less threatening environments than centers or offices to check in with individuals.
“We’re trying to get people in a less threatening way than coming down to the Counseling Center,” said Eric Bergh, one of the psychologists at Boe House. “More people need to have this diagnosed and receive care.” Fifteen million adults each year are affected by some sort of depressive episode and 30.9 percent of college students report having felt depressed within the past 12 months.
The screening was a fast, confidential and convenient way to get questions answered; 28 people stopped by and around two thirds were sent for follow-up. These numbers allude to the fact that depression is a looming issue at St. Olaf, one that isn’t addressed nearly as often as it should be.
Bergh also noted that catching depression early not only increases the quality of life for the individual, but also helps prevent depression from reaching a breaking point. In 2006, The National Collegiate Health Assessment reported that 9.4 percent of college students seriously considered attempting suicide.
“Half of kids in the ‘Healthy Minds Study’ said they had some sort of crippling depression that kept them from doing things,” Bergh said, “and this could keep them from reaching the point of suicide.”
There are many resources on campus to address overall mental health. The Wellness Center has a mental health team that frequently hosts events on depression, stress and anxiety. Events can be found on the Wellness Center’s home page. Additionally, from 2 p.m. until 8 p.m. every weekday, a peer educator is in the office, just to talk to if needed. All students are also encouraged to go to the Counseling Center if they feel the need, located on Ole Avenue in the Boe House, though appointments are required. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call x3062 to schedule one.
If you are concerned that you may have depression but aren’t ready to go to the Wellness or Counseling Centers, check out the online depression screening at psychcentral.com/depquiz.htm. It is not a diagnosis and should not be substituted for counseling, but it could give you an idea of where you stand.