Depression awareness week comes to campus

This past week, Psychological Counseling Services teamed up with the Health Center to host an array of events promoting mental health awareness. The program – which has not been coordinated since the demolition of the old Baxter Hall – was unlike any previous efforts for Depression Awareness Week at the College.

Staff in Psych Services and the Health Center focused on outreach to the campus, hoping to familiarize students with available resources without being an oppressive presence. “Mental illness has touched many on this campus personally,” said Margi Wood, co-director of Psychological Counseling. “It is our hope that by increasing awareness and education, this will become a more open environment for discussing mental health issues.”

The week began with Awareness Information tabling in Paresky Lobby last Wednesday, offering information on self-screening for depression and an anonymous student’s experience. Numerous staff members were involved in four informal talks with students that dealt with such difficult topics as friends with depression, sadness and grief, self-help strategies and bipolar disorder. The Active Minds Informational Meeting, to be held tomorrow, will gauge interest in founding an Active Minds chapter at the College, an organization that would train students to become more active listeners.

Students who partook in the series were enthusiastic about the availability of support and information. “It’s good that the College offers these resources for students because these issues are especially present on an intense campus,” Veronica Rabelo ’11 said, after the Monday discussion on the differences between grief and depression. “You go to learn something about a subject, and you might learn something about yourself.”

Ruth Harrison, director of Health Services, noted that the Health Center’s efforts had been limited in the past to depression screenings and informative tabling. The expansion via Psychological Counseling Services this year, however, has led to increased discussions on sadness, grief, bi-polar disorder and self-help strategies, Harrison said. In the upcoming months, Psychological Counseling Services and the Health Center plan to organize events that will involve students, faculty and staff, as part of an ongoing campus effort to promote mental health awareness. The purpose of this awareness campaign is to increase students’ comfort in dropping in to the Health Center to talk to staff members or seek help, according to Harrison.

Wood has noticed an increase in the number of students seeking help at the counseling center. “The College is extremely supportive of student needs, and thus has increased the resources as these needs have increased,” she said. Wood estimated that in a given year, the counseling center sees fifteen to eighteen percent of the student body.

For those less inclined to walk down Hoxsey St. to the Health Center, Peer Health, the student organization based in Paresky 212, offers ongoing services throughout the year. During lunch hours, Peer Health becomes a “satellite office” for the Health Center, with a trained staff member available to talk to students. Student-to-student time is available between 7 p.m. and 11 p.m. from Sunday to Thursday. Students can also pick up brochures on a range of subjects relevant to the stresses of college life or training for Peer Health, which is held during Winter Study.

“People don’t care to learn until it hits them, or until they can immediately use the knowledge,” said Tanya Pramatarova ’09, co-coordinator of Peer Health. “You don’t know how much you’re really achieving, but you hope you’re getting across.”

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