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ISSUE 116 VOL 8 PUBLISHED 11/8/2002

Treatment Available for seeking students

By Anonymous
Contributing Writer

Friday, November 8, 2002

Last year, the St. Olaf Counseling Center treated 403 students with their main concern being depression. As part of National Mental Health Week, the center provided confidential screenings for depression on Thurs., Nov. 7 in order to increase awareness of the disorder and help students, faculty and staff understand and receive treatment for depression. According to National Depression Screening Day data, 80 percent of people who are tested and suffering from depression are not in treatment. About 60 percent of the people have never been in treatment for the illness at all. Results have shown that the screenings do encourage people to seek some form of treatment for the illness. In the past, about 20 people have shown up for on-campus screenings. Eric Bergh, psychologist at the Counseling Center, said the key thing to know is that depression is a legitimate illness and not a weakness or a persons fault. The number one reason people do not seek treatment is because they are ashamed of getting help when really it's out of their control. Depression is treatable and the majority of people do get better. Bergh said the screening involves completing a questionnaire containing 20 items, watching a short video and meeting with a counselor to discuss the results of the test. Students have the option of making an appointment to meet with a counselor in order for a treatment plan to be established. The plan could involve therapy, medication or group therapy; but all plans are individualized for each student. Some students have voiced concern regarding the two-week waiting period for a new appointment and the difficulties in booking for the next sessions. Bergh said these difficulties are a result of high utilization of the center and their policy to not restrict the number of appointments a student may have with a therapist, as some colleges do. To help solve the overbooking problem, forty-four additional staff hours are planned to meet the Counseling Center's high demand this year, Bergh said. The main campus resources for depression include the Counseling Center and the support group that meets weekly at the center. Some students have also relied on support from the dean's office and residence hall staff. The Dean of Students' Office has been the most useful resource on campus for help with coordinating time off and coordinating with different groups who do not talk to each other, said Sarah Lawver 04. They are ultimately the ones who get stuff done and a good relationship with them is a big help. Lawver also had this advice to impart to other students who may be suffering from a form of mental illness. Get in touch with other people who suffer from the same illness  in person, if you can, but at least online, Lawver said. Make an effort to get out of your room. Shelly Pabst, a graduate intern at the St. Olaf Counseling Center, attends the weekly support group meetings and said the meetings allow students an opportunity to not feel alone in their struggles with mental illness. "It's a place for you to come where other people can relate to you, Pabst said. "No one goes through the same depression, but there are similarities. I think it is important to have others with you on your journey with depression." Students can gain support from their peers and also learn cognitive skills in coping with depression. Pabst said in general students begin to think of depression in different terms. "Students no longer think that 'I am depression,' but that depression is one part of my life,'" Pabst said. Katherine Welch '04, said the Counseling Center helps her understand how much of her struggles are attributable to depression and how much are because of normal life stresses. Therapy also helps her sort through the actions she can take to relieve the depression and get through it. Welch encourages all students to use as many resources as possible in dealing with this illness, such as the Counseling Center, the Dean of Students' Office or even searching for information on the Internet from credible sites. Combined, all resources can work together to help treat depression. "Try and be pushy  ask questions," Welch said. "If you're confused or not happy with the help you are getting, say something. They are all here for you." Welch said counselors, friends and family can be supportive, but only the individual can take responsibility for the necessary actions to help cope with depression. "Your friends can nag you forever and your parents can express a great deal of concern, but they cannot make you feel better or make you get help," Welch said. "Eventually you need to become actively involved in the process. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, even if you cannot see it.”

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