Thursday a day for depression awareness

Boynton staff hopes to make students aware of different options for mental-health issues.

Danielle Nordine

In conjunction with National Depression Screening Day, University Counseling and Consulting Services is offering free depression screenings and more available walk-in appointments Thursday.

Cynthia Fuller, a staff psychiatrist for University Counseling and Consulting Services, said free online screening is available anytime on the organization’s Web site but Thursday’s event is being held to raise more awareness about depression and other mental illnesses.

In addition, she said it would “let students know that help is accessible” on campus for these issues.

Fuller said depression and anxiety are very common mental health issues for college students.

While some students are biologically more susceptible to depression, the environmental factors of college can trigger depression in almost anyone, she said.

Many students find themselves living on their own and in new situations they might not be able to cope with, Fuller said.

where to go

Depression Screening
what: Boynton is holding a free depression screening day
when: Thursday
where: 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. 109 Eddy Hall (East Bank) and 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. 199 Coffey Hall (St. Paul campus)
For a free online depression screening test, see the Online Mental Health Screening Program

According to the 2004 Mental Health study by Boynton Heath Service, common stressors that trigger depression in University students include termination of a long-term personal relationship, excessive credit card debt and failing a class. Being diagnosed with a mental illness itself can also contribute to stress and depression.

Just more than 16 percent of all students responding to the survey were diagnosed with depression, the most common mental illness at the University, according to the study.

Students in their later years of college are more likely to be depressed.

A comparison between undergraduate students in their first through fourth years at the University versus undergraduates in their fifth and later years, the number of students with depression nearly doubled in the latter- increasing from 13.6 percent to 24.9 percent, according to the study.

Diane Brady-Leighton, a mental health counselor at Boynton Health Service and leader of a student depression group, said many factors could contribute to this increase in depression among older undergraduates.

“There is a sense of wanting to be done, and not being done,” she said.

It has also taken longer for these students to “discern their direction” in life and the added financial burden of an extra year can increase student stress as well.

Brady-Leighton said student depression can lead to making dangerous choices like binge drinking and drug use. She said depressed students use alcohol as an attempt to “self-medicate.”

More than 87 percent of students with depression used alcohol in 2004, the Mental Health study said.

Brittany, a member of the Active Minds at the University who didn’t want to use her last name for fear of social backlash, said she has dealt with depression since she was 15.

Having depression affected her college experience greatly, she said, as she “was either out socializing and drinking” or being reclusive.

She said depression affected her academic experience because it was difficult to focus or be motivated to go to classes and do homework. “I almost ended up on academic probation,” she said.

The Active Minds group is a student organization whose goal is to minimize the stigmas of mental illnesses and to provide support to students dealing with related issues.

The group holds educational conferences once a month and distributes information to students about the risks of mental illness in college.