The reasons behind those winter blues were the subject of the
“Depression on College Campuses: Connections to Stress,
Sleep, and Alcohol” conference held for the past two days on
campus.

Between 500 and 700 people attended the conference yesterday and
Tuesday, held at the Michigan League and Rackham Auditorium. The
University’s Depression Center hosted the conference.

Educators, health professionals and community members came to
listen to lectures and participate in panel discussions.

Donald Vereen, assistant to the director of the National
Institute on Drug Abuse, stressed the physical affects of drug
abuse on the brain in his talk, “Drug Abuse and Mental
Illness: Progress in Understanding Comorbidity.”

“One-half of individuals with substance disorders in the
past year also have mental disorders,” Vereen said, quoting a
recent study. Many of these mental disorders — such as
depression — are “hidden” behind the alcohol
abuse of their sufferers, Vereen said. This may lead to
underestimation of depression and improper treatment.

Lecturers ranged from Thomas Insel, director of the National
Institute of Mental Health, to John Howell, a safety for the Tampa
Bay Buccaneers professional football team. Lecturers discussed such
topics as the link between stress and depression and
recommendations for confronting the rise of depression and suicide
among students.

The second day of the conference was devoted primarily to the
connections between substance abuse and depression — a
pertinent issue for University students, especially those who
experience a lack of sleep or drink heavily, experts said.

Ting Kai Li, director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse
and Alcoholism, addressed the prevalence of alcohol abuse on
college campuses in his lecture “Stress, Depression and
Hazardous Alcohol Use: A Treacherous Intersection.”

Li said a minority of the population consumes the majority of
alcohol in the nation and college-age students contribute heavily
to this fact. A recent study conducted by the NIAAA, cited by Li,
showed that 80 percent of college students drink, while 50 percent
participate in binge drinking. Li defined binge drinking as more
than three drinks for women and more than four for men.

The main problem with college drinkers, Li said, is that they
don’t realize the huge impact varying metabolisms and
tolerance levels have on the affects of alcohol, leading to
unintelligent drinking habits.

“If you think ‘I should be drinking as much as my
roommate,’ you’re in trouble,” Li said.

The Depression Center is a network of educators, researchers and
clinicians from around the University. According to the
Center’s website, its aim is to “(inspire) the
investigation and introduction of new education, research and
treatment strategies” for depression. The conference was the
Center’s second such event.

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