National screening program aims to help the depressed

by Tracey Nelson

University students are prone to bouts of depression due to stress and biological effects, experts say.
To avert depression before it causes serious consequences, the University Counseling and Consulting Services is holding free on-campus depression screenings today for National Depression Screening Day.
Tom Beaumont, a University assistant professor and psychiatric social worker, said people ages 18 to 30 are the most likely to experience the beginnings of major mental illness.
Contributing to college students’ stress levels are greater academic demands, financial responsibilities, the strain of living away from home, and adjustment to new people and ideas.
Students may also feel stress making the transition from superior academic status in high school to average standing at a competitive university.
The screenings take place at two University locations –Eddy Hall on the East Bank and Coffey Hall on the St. Paul campus.
The screening takes 30 minutes and includes a video explaining depression, a 20-question multiple choice test and a private meeting with a counselor. Students are under no obligation or commitment to seek treatment.
“We don’t say, ‘Yes, you are’ or ‘No, you aren’t’ because we need to spend more time with the person,” said Dr. Glenn Hirsch, assistant UCCS director, regarding depression diagnosis.
“We don’t push for counseling, we just tell them what they can do,” said clinical psychologist Linda Muldoon.
The purpose of the screenings is “to get people aware of depression as an illness and to consider whether they have it,” said Matt Hanson, coordinator of National Depression Screening Day. “Depression is the common cold of mental illnesses and is projected to be the second-most burdensome illness in the world by 2020.”
Warning signs of depression include: sadness, hopelessness, irritability, change in sleeping and eating patterns, loss of energy and interest, anxiousness, and chronic illness.
Depression takes its toll on academic work. It causes fatigue, a lack of motivation or interest, loss of concentration, and difficulty thinking clearly. Sleep, homework, and social lives are all adversely affected by depression.
Students sometimes turn to drugs and alcohol to self-medicate.
“(Alcohol) works against you because alcohol is a central nervous system depressant,” said Hirsch, adding that it will worsen the condition in the long run.
The University offers relaxation techniques to reduce stress at The Comfort Zone, a clinic on the second floor of Boynton Health Service. Counseling is also provided at the Mental Health Clinic and urgent consultation with licensed independent clinical social workers is available at (612) 625-8475.

Tracey Nelson welcomes comments at [email protected]