Help for depression available

Alan Bjerga

The suicide rate among people ages 15-24 has tripled in the past 40 years, from 4.5 per 100,000 population in 1950 to 13.2 in 1990. Suicide is now the third-leading cause of death among adolescents.
The increasing suicide rate and growing awareness of the problems of depression have lead to heavier workloads for University health educators who work with depression-related problems and try to prevent suicides such as University senior Mike Griffin’s last Wednesday.
But increasing demands on the caseworkers makes the task difficult. Barbara Benner, a staff psychologist at Boynton Health Service, said, “My caseload has been much more difficult to manage, as has all my colleagues’. We don’t get to see people as often as we’d like.”
Benner attributes the tougher workload at Boynton to several factors, including availability of services, student pressure levels and student psychology. “There used to be more inexpensive choices for students, like the Hennepin or Ramsey county medical centers. But as costs go up, we become the only affordable choice.
“Pressure is increasing on students … many more of them are working through school and staying in school longer to complete a degree. They stay on our caseloads … I also think a campus this large attracts people with particular mental health needs. What I often get are people who can’t handle the interpersonal demands of a smaller college. They’re attracted to the anonymity” of the University, Benner said.
With the problems of suicide and depression more of an issue on campuses than ever, the University has reacted by offering a variety of services to students who need help. “We have same-day services with crisis therapists, scheduled appointments with psychotherapists or with psychiatrists who look at biological aspects,” Benner said.
Because between 93 and 95 percent of people who commit suicide are suffering from psychiatric illness, most often depression, a combination of medication and therapy works best, according to Dr. Ludwig Spolyar, a University psychologist who works with depression screenings.
“Often depression is a chemical imbalance. Medication can be an important therapy … but many people don’t recognize they have serious depression, or they are reluctant to seek professional help,” Spolyar said. Though many students need help, Spolyar said they need to take the first step to seek attention. “We let people define crisis for themselves,” Spolyar said.
Free depression screenings are available at Boynton Health Service. The service is confidential and open to any University student or staff member who feels he or she may need help. Anyone who urgently needs attention can call the Boynton Crisis Clinic at 625-8475 for immediate referral to a counselor.