National Depression Screening Day comes to Columbia

By The Columbia Chronicle

Rachael L. Silvers

Staff Writer/Photographer

How are you feeling?

Take a test and gain a brain. Oct. 8 was National DepressionScreening Day. The first 50 Columbia students, faculty and staff who tested for depression walked away with their very own squishy brain-shaped stress reliever, donated by the Mental Health Association of Illinois.

For the third year, Rose Gordon, Assistant to the Dean of Student Life and a clinical psychologist, headed the event at Columbia. With merely one table and a few chairs set up in the lobby of the Residence Center, Gordon and colleagues reached out to students from 4-7 p.m. A total of 71 people took advantage of this service.

The depression screening consisted of ten questions which could be answered with either ‘some of the time,’ ‘most of the time’ or ‘all of the time.’ New to the test this year was a short section that screened for bipolar disorder, more commonly known as manic depression. Once students had completed the test, Gordon and another colleague tallied their scores. People with scores between one and eight were sent off with a smile and a squishy brain. Two mental health professionals were available for those who scored higher than eight. The professionals met with them for an informal 8-10 minute interview.

According to Gordon, approximately 10 percent of participants need an interview, and of those approximately five percent return and are helped into a counseling program appropriate for them.

Very few colleges made depression screening available to their students and staff, although there were screening centers across Chicagoland. Two of the larger screenings were held at the Daley Center and Rush Presbyterian St. Luke’s Hospital. The Daley Center topped out with over 200 participants, and Columbia College came in second.

Gordon is on the board of the Mental Health Association of Illinois and decided three years ago that this was a commodity the college needed to offer to all of the students. With permission from Dean Lee (Dean of Student Life), and a materials fee of just over $100, Gordon set out to help those who are in need.

“So many people are depressed and just don’t know it. We want them to know that help is available,” said Gordon during the screening.

According to the National Mental Health Association (NMHA), depression is one of the most common illnesses in the U.S. Clinical depression can be treated and treatment can save lives. The hardest step is determining if a person is depressed. The symptoms are very recognizable, yet many people just don’t know what they are. Sadness and withdrawal are the most prevalent and noticeable symptoms; however, there is more to depression, such as anxiety, irritability and sleeplessness.

A checklist for symptoms was available to students at the screening. You may be depressed if you have these symptoms: sadness, frustration, anger, loneliness, anxiousness, crying a lot, feeling trapped, not taking care of yourself, thinking of self-injury or suicide, isolation, and sudden weight gain or loss.

More than 17 million Americans suffer from clinical depression, according to the NMHA. Most people don’t know that it can affect anyone young or old, male or female, regardless of race or income.