As depression rates rise in college students, many campuses are reaching out to help understand and alleviate this growing problem.
In a 2009 survey of college students, 30 percent of respondents reported that they felt so depressed it was difficult to function. To aid students who fall into this percentage, more than 500 colleges nationwide offered free anonymous screenings for depression and related disorders.
Geneseo participated in "National Depression Screening Day," in which students were able to complete a quick questionnaire online. The survey is still available online through CollegeResponse.org. It provides a safe, discrete way for students to learn if they are high-risk for depression and other mental health issues that are common throughout a college campus.
According to the organization Screening for Mental Health, new data revealed that 18- to 25-year-olds are 17 percent more likely to be depressed now than five years ago.
While depression is on the rise for college populations, the majority of students do not intend to speak with a mental health professional about their problem. This is a major cause of concern, particularly because the risk of suicide in people with major depressions is about 20 times that of the general population.
In fact, suicide is the second leading cause of death among college students. An estimated 1,100 college students take their lives each year.
"There is this myth that people who talk about suicide don't do it. In fact, we know that 70 percent of people who die by suicide have let someone know their intention, but that person often does not know what to do," said Dr. Douglas G. Jacobs, founder of Screening for Mental Health, in a press release. "While not all depressed people have thoughts of suicide, people who are suicidal usually are depressed. The goal of screening is to identify depression early on, when it is easier to treat, thus averting the tragedy of suicide."
An astounding 81 percent of students who died because of suicide last year had never been to a school counsel center in spite of the fact that treatment is effective 80 percent of the time, according to Screening for Mental Health. For this reason, many argue that it is important for college campuses to have easily accessible resources for those who may be suffering from depression, as well as peers and educators to be on the lookout for warning signs of depression and suicide.
Geneseo's Lauderdale Health and Counseling center has worked to make diagnosis and treatment for depression accessible to students. Health and Counseling offers online screenings, self-care strategies, a self-help lending library and on-campus therapy for students.
Dr. Beth Cholette, Clinical Director for Counseling Services, developed a program called R.E.A.C.T. with other staff members from the Student & Campus Life Division. "It is a bystander-type program which trains students to intervene with other students who may be in distress related to mental health issues," said Cholette.
Next week Cholette will present the R.E.A.C.T. program to a student-run organization called Active Minds. The goal of Active Minds is to create awareness, provide information and encourage help-seeking.
Cholette encourages students to take mental health seriously. "I think that the biggest mistake that students make in trying to cope with their stress [and] other mental health is not making these issues a priority." she said "So many students view academics as their main priority, but they fail to realize that they will not be successful academically if they do not take care of their mental health needs."