U alumnus to speak on depression

To Mark Meier , the most important aspect of dealing with depression is to overcome the stigmas people have about the disease. âÄúThe notion that people with depression are weak is erroneous,âÄù Meier, a specialist who speaks to various organizations about depression, said. Meier, a 1991 University graduate with a degree in social work, will speak on the St. Paul campus on Tuesday night as a part of the St. Paul Super Fantastic Week . The talk, called âÄúUncomfortably Numb: Depression and the College Experience,âÄù will be held in the St. Paul Student Center at 7 p.m. Meier approached the University about speaking as he said he feels that college especially is a critical place to address the topic of depression. Meier, who was diagnosed with depression while a junior at the University, uses his own experiences when speaking to groups. He first sought help as a student after seriously contemplating suicide while walking to class one morning. After talking to a counselor, he chose not to take the medication that was prescribed to him, deciding to deal with it on his own. Meier said people who choose not to treat their depression after experiencing an episode are 50 percent more likely to have another. If they still decide not to treat the disease they are 75 percent more likely to have a third. If someone continues to refuse treatment, âÄúthey might as well stay in bed.âÄù Meier said itâÄôs important to recognize that depression is a disease, caused by genetic, chemical and environmental factors. âÄúWhen a person is diagnosed with cancer, everyone comes out to support that person,âÄù Meier said. âÄúWhen a person is diagnosed with depression they are told to get over it. We donâÄôt know how to react to the disease.âÄù According to the latest report on mental health released from Boynton Health Services in 2007, 16.9 percent of University students were diagnosed with depression in their lifetime. Of those students who were diagnosed with depression, 8.9 percent of students were diagnosed 12 months prior to taking the survey. The Boynton report also examined stressors experienced by students over the past 12 months that often contribute to mental health problems. A conflict with a roommate was one of the top stressors listed by students at 22.1 percent. This was followed closely with 19.2 percent of students saying they experienced the end of a personal relationship. The report also showed that 28.7 percent of students surveyed felt they were unable to handle their stress. Meier said friends and family are important components in helping a person seek treatment, especially in terms of catching early signs and suicide prevention. âÄúSixty percent of all people who commit suicide have been diagnosed with depression,âÄù Meier said. Meier added that while a person may not want to be an âÄúannoying friendâÄù and insist for someone to get help, that act could save a life. He said while information for students about depression is more readily available now than when he was in college, it is still difficult to reach every person on a campus this size. This makes awareness and interpersonal relations even more essential. Dr. Katherine Lust , the head researcher for BoyntonâÄôs mental health report, said it is difficult to gauge how mental health at the University compares to other colleges as Minnesota is one of the few places with the resources to produce such a report. Lust said she hopes to talk to the other colleges in the Big Ten in hopes that they may start to conduct mental health surveys allowing for more comparative data. In looking to his talk, Meier said he hopes to discuss what depression looks like, how to get help and most of all, to raise awareness.