Two-day conference raises awareness of depression on college campuses
The Depression on College Campuses conference — a two-day event hosted by the University of Michigan’s Depression Center — began Wednesday afternoon in Rackham Auditorium.
The conference aims to discuss causes and treatments of depression on campuses throughout the United States, with a focus on relationships. It has been held at the University for the past 14 years, with 450 registered attendees this year, a fraction of which were undergraduates. Trish Meyer, manager for outreach and education at the Depression Center, attributed the lower undergraduate attendence on the first day of the conference to three hour workshops which students cannot attend due to class times.
Becca Lindsay, project manager in Health Management and Policy, said she thought that despite the low undergraduate turnout, the conference was extremely relevant on campus.
“This conference is really great for students on campus because it gets you thinking more about issues that really impact you and your peers,” she said.
Wednesday’s portion of the conference consisted of a keynote speech delivered by Bernice Pescosolido, director of the Indiana Consortium for Mental Health Services Research at the University of Indiana. Pescosolido discussed how different generations respond to and treat depression in different ways.
“A confluence of forces have shifted the place of mental health at U.S. universities and colleges,” she said. “This provides a unique opportunity to rethink the way we construct learning environments, engage in institutional social change, and create a less stigmatizing society regarding mental health and illness.”
Following the keynote speech, attendees broke up into workshops and panels. These smaller groups talked about bystander intervention, evidence-based treatment for depression, relationships and ways to support students with autism. About 50 attendees made up each group, most of whom were professionals, faculty or graduate students in the field of psychology.
However, even though there were low numbers of undergraduate attendees, many of the speakers were undergraduate students.
A discussion on relationships, called Relationship Remix, was among the least formal of the panels. The gender breakdown of the audience was notably skewed toward women, with only about four men in attendance out of the fifty total attendees.
Anne Huhman, program manager at the University's Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center, said though the number of men in this group was low, it was important to continue to include as many identities as possible in these discussions.
“One thing that we’re trying to do by gathering feedback from our colleagues is get that range of identities in the room, including men,” she said.
Among the topics discussed were consent, safe sex and how to communicate in a healthy way.
When going over healthy options for engaging in safe relationships, LSA senior Madison McCullough, a Relationship Remix leader, said UHS offers many options for students
“Many University of Michigan students are not having sex,” she said. “You can choose to have sex less often, or with less partners, or get the HPV vaccine, which UHS offers.”
After the panel, LSA junior Emily Liu, a SAPAC member, echoed Huhman’s sentiments, saying the conversation may have been different with more undergraduates in the room.
“It’s funny to think about how this (discussion) might differ with students,” Liu said.
Many of the speakers stressed that mental health is an issue that needs to be addressed on not only on the University’s campus, but also campuses across the country.
Laura McAndrew, sexual health educator at Wolverine Wellness, said mental health is an ongoing issue for young people that requires further discussion and focus.
“Mental health for college students is a huge factor in their wellness, in their academic success and in their well-being during their time in school.” McAndrew said. “So it’s a really complex issue that requires a really complex set of solutions to try to improve mental health for students.”
Correction appended: A previous version of this article incorrectly labeled how many students were in attendence. The article has also been updated to provide additional context into why fewer undergraduate students attended the conference's first day.