University takes steps to address student depression

When University sophomore Chloe Russick@@[email protected]@ came to the University last year from Nevada, she needed help.

“I didn’t interact with people at all,” Russick said. “It felt like everyone didn’t like me. I started noticing I was always sad. And I thought it would get better, but it didn’t.”

She avoided talking to a therapist or taking medication because she didn’t think her problems would improve.@@improve? wondering if ‘deteriorate’ would be a more applicable [email protected]@ Looking back, she wishes she would have talked to someone.

Russick is part of a growing trend of college students dealing with depression in the last decade. A 2010 study from the American Psychological Association estimated that 41 percent of students had moderate to severe depression in 2010 — an increase from 34 percent in 2000.@@[email protected]@

She thinks depression is more widespread on campus than people may think. Another study in 2011 by Northwestern University found that one out of every four or five students who visits a university health center with cold symptoms is actually depressed, and about three percent of those students had suicidal thoughts.@@[email protected]@

“In general, I think most counseling centers feel that the number of students who are having more serious issues is increasing,” said Jon Davies, senior staff psychologist at the University Counseling and Testing Center. “There are also a lot of students who are depressed but aren’t seeking help.”

To better assess students’ health needs, the center began a new program last fall to screen students for depression when they call to make an appointment — a step many colleges don’t take, according to Joseph DeWitz, clinical director at the center.@@[email protected]@

“We wanted to know why students were calling,” DeWitz said. “Before, folks would be sent away with significant problems.”

With the new program, more than 90 percent of students who call for appointments are assessed over the phone or in person.@@does this work? i think it would be better if it was shown to work first before using us and asking questions without any evidence of [email protected]@ DeWitz said the center has also improved its responsiveness and decreased wait times for appointments, which now average about two weeks; the common wait time for appointments at campus health centers, according to DeWitz, is around four to five weeks.@@really? out of how many [email protected]@ If students need more immediate assistance, the University refers them to other health centers or clinics in Eugene.

In addition to the Counseling and Testing Center, University Housing has also worked to address student depression. Beginning last fall, resident assistants now refer students to a therapist if they think a student living in the dorms is depressed.@@being trained to do [email protected]@

“If people are exhibiting depression or suicidal symptoms, our staff will follow up with the student, and now our protocol is to call the Counseling and Testing Center,” said Patrick Stevens, interim assistance director of residence life.@@[email protected]@ “We’ve moved more toward working with trained professionals this year.”

Other programs, such as the University’s Suicide Prevention Task Force,@@[email protected]@ have worked to increase awareness about depression and suicide on campus. The task force provides online “Suicide Report Forms” for students or others to fill out if they know of someone who needs help. DeWitz also mentioned that the Counseling and Testing Center now has a 24-hour help line if students need to speak with a counselor.

Even so, Davies and DeWitz point out that it’s difficult to encourage students to ask for help, and that the University should continue to focus on providing more help services.

“We have resources available for people,” Davies said. “But I think there could be some greater screening for people who don’t come in and don’t seek help.”

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