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Feeling down in the dumps may be more than just the blues

Students are more stressed than they were 15 years ago, leading to more cases of depression. Attend a free depression screening on October 6.

Health Matters

Depression is on the rise among college students. Many are increasingly experiencing anxiety, stress, insomnia, debilitating sadness, and lack of interest in things they once enjoyed. A March 2002 report in Psychiatric News found that 14 percent of 701 students surveyed at a Boston-area college showed significant depressive symptoms, and half of those had major depression. Left untreated, the symptoms can ruin your semester and even your year, says Lauren Kehoe (GRS’08), office manager at the Danielsen Institute, which is providing free screenings on Thursday, October 6, as part of National Depression Screening Day.

“Depression in college students is actually quite common, and it’s getting worse,” says Kehoe, who has been organizing the screenings for the past six years. “If you are actually clinically depressed as opposed to just feeling down, it can manifest itself physically. It can mess up your sleep and appetite, and the longer you let it go, the more likely it can screw up your whole system.”

Depression affects more than 19 million American adults annually. According to a recent UCLA survey, students are more stressed and overwhelmed than they were 15 years ago, with over 30 percent of college freshman reporting feeling overwhelmed a great deal of the time and about 38 percent of college women reporting feeling overwhelmed frequently.

“If you’re feeling anxious about everything and it doesn’t seem proportional to what’s going on in your life, you may be depressed,” Kehoe says. “I’d recommend the screening to anyone who has noticed a profound change in mood or physical health or sleeping patterns. If you feel generally OK, but you sleep in too much or not enough or don’t feel like doing anything you used to, it might be a good idea to get checked out.”

The screenings are scheduled for 1:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. and take approximately an hour. Participants fill out a brief questionnaire and then have the opportunity to go over the results with a clinician. The entire process is anonymous. “When they go over results with a clinician, participants are called by a number,” says Kehoe, “and unless they want to start treatment, we will never know their names.”

“It’s good not only for someone who might think that they have a problem, but also if you think someone you care about has a problem with depression,” she says. “We have a lot of information for people to take, a film on depression, and clinicians available to answer questions.”

For more information, contact the Danielsen Institute, 185 Bay State Rd., at 617-353-3047.