Depression and Anxiety Day strives to erase the stigma

By Sydney Bucholtz

Features Editor

Given that one in four adults suffers from a diagnosable mental disorder each year, the need to provide convenient, personal, and efficient care is indubitably urgent.  With an approximate 25-percent of the global population experiencing these exhaustive, debilitating, uncertain, and sometimes lonely conditions, it is essential that there is adequate access to resources that will support aid and safe recovery.  With this in mind, resources closer to home are making strides to be as accessible as possible for college students in need of a well-check, and on Thursday, 9 February, the Counseling Center at Canisius will be hosting a Depression and Anxiety Screening Day in Old Main’s second-floor lounge from 9:30 a.m. until 3 p.m.

In Boston University’s recent publication of the three-part series “Mental Health Matters,” studies demonstrated college students’ overwhelming tendencies toward concerningly poor mental well-being.  The series referenced a 2014-2015 study carried out by the Association for University and College Counseling Center Directors, who found that “73.1-percent of counselling directors reported an increase in the severity of student mental health concerns and related behavior on their campuses.”  

“Mental Health Matters” also brought attention to the University of Michigan’s annual online survey of college students, which found that 67-percent of students in the 2015-2016 survey “reported that there had been at least one day in the past month when emotional difficulty had impaired their academic performance” and “32-percent reported three or more such days.”  Additionally, about 44-percent of the students attested that “they thought they’d needed mental health help in the past year,” however “only 48-percent of that group said they had received help.”

The reasoning behind this resistance that some students feel toward seeking help could lie in anything, from humiliation, to denial, to inaccessibility of care.  Regardless, it is apparent that there are countless cases of mental illness that go unreported and untreated, and the relentlessly quick pace of the average college-aged individual does not facilitate ideal conditions for them to be able to pursue help.  Nonetheless, it is vital that the barriers or stigmas surrounding mental illness treatment are erased, enabling for human life, care, and uninhibited pursuit of overall well-being to be placed as the central focus, on behalf of approximately a quarter of the population.

“That’s one of the main reasons we do this,” described Charita Price, a counselor from the Canisius Counseling Center.  “We take care of our physical health.  We go to the doctor, we get our check-ups, we get our flu shot, we do all of those things…  But when it comes to our mental wellness or our emotional wellness, we’re sometimes resistant to that, ignore those symptoms, or push those to the side,” she said.  “That’s why it’s so important to really take care of your mental wellness, your mental health, just like you would your physical health.”

The Counseling Center has been holding Depression and Anxiety Screening Day for a number of years but has recently added an additional screening day to their annual calendar.

“We typically do Depression and Anxiety Screening Day when it’s observed,” Price described.  “There’s a National Depression and Anxiety Screening Day, usually in October, so traditionally we’ll do a screening during that time annually.  We have just begun to do it twice in the academic year, so once in the fall and once in the spring.”

The paper and pencil screening is free, anonymous, and only takes fifteen minutes to complete.  Additionally, doughnuts, tea, and hot chocolate will be offered at the event for students to enjoy.  The screening takes place in an inviting, warm, non-threatening, relaxing atmosphere, where students can meet one-on-one with a counselor to get results.  

“We don’t share anything; we don’t even know the person’s name because it’s all by number, so students can feel really safe,” Price assured.  She continued, elaborating about the complete process, “We score and give them their results, and then based upon those results, we make recommendations.  We might provide them just with some educational resources, some things that might be helpful to them,” Price shared.  “Sometimes, we may make a recommendation for them to follow up with counselling, or maybe they have a counsellor in the community on their own.  And if someone wants to, we can schedule that appointment with them then and there to come and see us in the Counseling Center.”

Price emphasized that while this screening brings awareness to students, it is not a diagnostic tool.  “It’s not going to say: ‘You have depression,’ or ‘You have anxiety.’  It’s not going to say that,” she said.  “It will say your symptoms may align with some symptoms that are common with anxiety or depression, so we’re able to educate students in that way.”

The Depression and Anxiety Screening Day is purposefully scheduled to take place in the second floor Old Main lounge, such that the location provides students with convenient access as well as privacy simultaneously.  “We’re meeting the student where they are — coming to them.  Coming to Old Main, as opposed to maybe holding it back [in the Counselling Center],” Price expressed.  “So we’re being visible to a lot of students that we may not typically see.  We do see a lot of commuters during Depression and Anxiety Screening, which is really nice, because commuters don’t always make their way back here to Bosch,” she said.  “It’s really nice to be visible and be seen by lots of students.”  

“It’s really important to meet the students where they are,” Price continued, “because the convenience, or not knowing where we are, can be a barrier to someone seeking services.  By us meeting the student, them getting to know us and seeing us a little bit, they might be more willing to seek help.”

“We know students are busy,” Price elaborated.  Luckily, the Counselling Center focuses on accessibility and efficiency at its forefront when planning this screening.  “It’s nice to take a quick pause and just to learn some things about yourself, get some resources, and maybe connect with us if there’s a need,” said Price.  “It’s quick, and it provides them with information and also resources on how to help themselves.  There are small things that you can do to make your situation better.”

When young individuals begin their college endeavors, they are accompanied by not only their previous experiences, but those that come with being a college student.  In that regard, it should not only be understandable but normalized that the definition of “normal” in itself is rather intangible, given the way which each student possesses their own unique culmination of experiences and potential stressors.  There is no clear-cut “right” or “acceptable” way to grow as an individual, and nurturing one’s mental state is of equal value in comparison to nurturing a person’s physical, social, spiritual, or any other given state.  

In offering this Depression and Anxiety Screening Day, the Counselling Center demonstrates sensitivity and openness for students, facilitating that they explore themselves and make discoveries which could improve quality of life.  This is practiced on the basis of what Price references as “Cura Personalis, care of the whole person.” As Price articulates, “We want to emphasize the importance of taking care of your mental health the same as you would your physical health.”  A brief visit to Old Main’s second-floor lounge on Thursday, 9 February sometime between 9:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. has the potential to allow students to use the resources at their convenience to find relief along their life’s progression, and unashamedly ask for help when it’s needed.   

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