by Claire Toal, staff writer
Depression is young. Depression is middle aged. Depression hurts. Depression smiles. Depression is medicated. Depression self-medicates. Depression is chain smoking. Depression is sober. Depression is food. Depression is vegan. Depression takes a semester off. Depression is the dean’s list. Depression knows me. Depression knows you. Depression does not discriminate.
Depression is a serious mental illness characterized by feelings of anxiety or sadness. Most people experience the occasional fluctuation in their mental state yet their “blues” often subside in a few days. The National Institute of Mental Health works to strengthen awareness about depression through extensive clinical research about the illness and its treatment. The institute seeks to transform the public perception of depression by providing informative data about prevention, recovery and cure.
According to NIMH, depression can be a result of many factors including changes in routine or environment, interpersonal conflict, financial difficulties, or feelings of loneliness.
One in every four college students struggles with mental illness, including depression. Seventy-five percent of students do not seek treatment for their depression. College students frequently underestimate the symptoms of their emotional distress or are hesitant to seek help due to social stigma. Depression is the number primary reason students leave school, or commit suicide.
The National Depression Screening Day took place in Gladfelter Oct. 12. This annual event, held during October’s Mental Illness Awareness week, works to promote awareness and provides students with a chance to receive screening for depression and related mood and/or anxiety disorders. National Depression Screening Day is the oldest voluntary, community based screening program in the United States. The program has provided treatment referral information and assessed more than half a million people for Depression since 1991.
Anne Lundbland, Jil Meadows, and Art Schuster from the Counseling Center teamed with volunteers from the Western Carolina National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) to offer support and promote awareness to the WWC community.
“This is actually the highest number of participants we’ve had since we started hosting the event,” Schuster said.
There were 39 participants at the depression screening, in addition to those who stopped by to talk and/or pick up some of the informative literature supplied by NAMI.
NAMI of Western Carolina pledges a mission to act as the “community’s voice on mental illness.” NAMI has served as an advocate for the individuals and families impacted by mental illness through various support programs and public education since 1971. The powerful grassroots mental health advocacy organization focuses on increasing Americans’ awareness surrounding mental health issues by providing resources to individuals in need. The organization also emphasizes the need to treat mental illness as a high national priority.
Research conducted by NIMH has proven that treatments used to combat depression can be highly effective. A combination of psychotherapy and antidepressants are the most common treatments of depression. Diagnosing depression in its onset can decrease the likelihood of the illnesses return, and help to alleviate symptoms more rapidly.
Depression can leave you feeling helpless, exhausted, and lost. It is important that these feelings be recognized as part of the illness, and that treatment can prove extremely beneficial. If you did not attend the depression screening, and feel as though you may be depressed, the counseling center offers free mental health services and can aid you in identifying the support you may need.
“I believe the presence we created had a significant impact in helping create awareness and reduce the stigma that can be associated with mental illness and related emotional challenges,” Schuster said. “I expect there are now many more folks out there who are more conscious of the idea that depression is a valid illness, and some of those will be more inclined to take action to get help for themselves or others.”