The University addressed a growing trend of depression in higher education by holding its first-annual Depression on College Campuses conference yesterday. The conference gathered researchers, school administrators and medical health professionals from across the country to discuss the widely neglected topic of college depression.
The program’s events aims to change the perception of depression from a moral or social weakness to a serious and treatable mental illness, said John Greden, the executive director of The University Depression Center. “Knowledge and information that is disseminated is our most powerful tool,” Greden said.
Speakers emphasized the effects and management of stigma associated with depression. Summer Berman, co-founder of Mentality Inc., said that stigma is the biggest barrier in the fight against social discrimination and the cultural silencing of the true nature of depression.
Yesterday’s keynote speaker, Andrew Solomon, author of “The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression,” states that college campuses are a breeding ground for the onset of depression. He lobbies for programs work to reinforce the claim that depression is a serious medical condition.
“To bombard ourselves with information about mental health is very important,” said Berman, who is also a graduate student in the School of Social Work. The culturalization of mental health issues to the point where stigma no longer exists is paramount, she added.
Speakers also encouraged students to be proactive about depression detection. “Students should feel it is okay to ask a friend or neighbor for help and to encourage others to seek help,” Rackham Dean Earl Lewis said.
Panelists discussed issues involving the lack of communication within the mental health support system and the challenges faced by mental health care providers, both on the financial and informational level.
Marianne Udow, the vice president of Health Care Products and Provider Services of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, described the complete misconceptions and prejudices of depression and mental health within the health care system. Without the support of corporate America, providers do not have the money to support care and research of mental illnesses.
Two other keynote speakers, Kathy Cronkite and Meri Nana-Ama Danquah, will continue the discussion on depression today at the Michigan League. The second day of the conference is scheduled from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.