Students who are depressed may not be getting the help they need.
“The resources are probably adequate, but I don”t think they are clear enough,” said Prof. Carol Mowbray, associate dean for research. “People don”t know where to go or are afraid to go.”
Students may not always know what resources are available and the stigma associated with mental illness may be enough to deter some people from seeking treatment, Mowbray said.
“There are recent studies that indicate that depression is more acceptable as a mental illness than other diagnoses,” Mowbray said.
“It”s still clear that there is a lot of stigma and discrimination associated with any mental illness just from the facts about how reluctant people are to go seek help,” she added. Thanks to efforts to increase awareness about the nature of mental illness, the negative image may be shrinking.
Depression is one of the more common illnesses students seek treatment for at the University”s Counseling and Psychological Services, according to Jim Etzkorn, CAPS” assistant director for clinical services.
Students who go to CAPS” third floor Michigan Union offices usually schedule an appointment for a few days later, but have the option of seeing the psychiatrist on duty immediately, Etzkorn said CAPS tries not to make people wait longer than a week for the first scheduled appointment.
The first step is to assess how serious the depression is and what treatment is required.
“Most of the time it”s some short-term therapy, but if for something beyond what we can offer here the therapist will certainly make referrals,” Etzkorn said. CAPS offers one-on-one therapy as well as group therapy and workshops.
But as is the case with other institutions, the University”s treatment options do have limits, Mowbray said. “If someone has depression and it”s more than transient adjustment disorder, then it”s going to require some sort of ongoing counseling,” she said. “Most counseling centers are only geared up to see people for a limited number of sessions.”
Colleges and universities across the nation may not have either the resources or the connections for long-term care that some patients require, she said.
Etzkorn said resources are available outside of CAPS, but there is usually a fee involved, whereas CAPS is free for students. “For some people, having to pay for services holds them back from using services,” he said.
Another problem in diagnosing depression is that “people may not realize they”re depressed they may just think “I”m just having a rough time,”” Etzkorn said.
Etzkorn said some students put too much pressure on themselves and become depressed when they do not achieve what they desire.
Mowbray cautioned there are no certainties in determining what causes depression, but she and Etzkorn agreed biological and environmental factors are likely contributors.
“There is a combination of family factors and risk factors related to a person”s current environment that will trigger episodes of certain mental illnesses, such as depression,” Mowbray said . “People are more vulnerable if they have a family history,” she added.
There are various options in treating depression, Mowbray said.
“I think that you need a combination of medications and counseling and therapy and an examination of or changes in your lifestyle, so clearly medication by itself is not enough. People need some additional kinds of support,” she said. Reordering priorities to alleviate stress or including more time for exercise are some ways to deal with depression.
“The research suggests treatment is highly successful for a lot of people,” Etzkorn said. “We”d encourage people if they think they may be depressed … to come by and schedule an appointment. The worst that could happen is they come in here and talk with someone and figure out there is no serious problem.”