When you are plagued with the common cold, you see a doctor. If you want to make the basketball team, you go to the gym. But what if you are stressed out or you want each new day to be over before the day begins? Are you quick to seek professional help? In some cases, the answer is “no.”
For many college students, the stigma of seeking therapy or any form of counseling considers you to be weak, needy or crazy. However, UC campuses are now working to reverse that stigma. For the first year, ten UC’s, including UC Irvine, are joining forces together to promote this week’s Mental Health Awareness week, as a part of the “Each Mind Matters” mental health campaign for students to reconnect with their mental health.
Negar Shekarabi, Outreach Coordinator, explains the importance of having a welcoming environment for students to begin the anonymous screening.
“Our hope is that with having a Depression Screening Day on campus, outside of the counseling center, we can create a point of contact for students who have a barrier or are less likely to walk through our doors,” Shekarabi said. “It’s a much more casual environment, but because they get an opportunity to speak with us one-on-one afterward we get some private opportunities to talk to them about our services and their needs.”
Hosted by the counseling center, National Depression Screening Day, which takes place on the second Thursday of October of every year, gives students the opportunity to evaluate their health and overall well-being. Most often, students tend to overlook this aspect, especially when being involved in school commitments that take up much of their time, or pondering about how to prepare for that next exam. National Depression Screening Day comes at a perfect time, when the quarter has just begun. For some students, it means starting their first school year with a healthy mentality.
First-year Venus Yu was informed about this day through her resident advisor and reflects back on her experience. Yu is among the crowd of students lined up on Ring Road near the Terrace Stage to get evaluated.
“I think it’s good because people need to be more aware of depression. A lot of people think depression is not a real thing. Some people think it’s a phase, or they can get over it in a day.”
And for others, it means coping with their last year at UCI. Sam* is among the students who was able to reflect on her screening process, as it gave her the opportunity to reflect back on the resources offered on campus.
Like most students, one of the most exciting things about coming to college is meeting new people and building those long lasting relationships. For others like Sam, those relationships can heavily weigh down on their mental health. Sam decided to get screened because she had been feeling down lately. She was contemplating on whether or not to end her relationship. More so, Sam felt that she didn’t have anyone to talk to, so she came to see if she was going through depression.
For others who are undergoing similar situations such as stress, separation anxiety or loneliness, the screening is the first step to balance our mental health, and the service is free and conveniently located on campus.
The process requires students to fill out a questionnaire pertaining to their moods, feelings and fluctuations that occurred within the past couple of months or weeks. The sheet is then collected to be scored by professional psychologists.
After a five minute waiting period, students walk with a psychologist toward the back area of the terrace to discuss their scores in privacy. From there on, psychologists evaluate participants and ask them a series of questions, such as if they’ve been experiencing any differences in their mood.
Sam was among those who benefitted from her evaluation. After going through the screening process and speaking to a psychologist, Sam realized that the symptoms she experienced were temporary. And that just because things weren’t going well for her now, doesn’t mean it will not get better later. Sam is now aware that she can take a visit to the Counseling Center any time she needs to talk.
It was just three years ago when UC Irvine adopted National Depression Screening Day, with onlys 60 students in attendance. The year before, it doubled. Now, it continues to grow as over 180 students are estimated to have gone through the consultation process this year.
Nowadays, it seems like students are affected by the transition into college, out of college, stressors of choosing a major and academic stress. Other causes such as anxiety and depression, relationship issues and family problems are issues commonly shared among students.
But in order to break through these barriers, students need to understand what therapy is, and what therapy is not. Therapy or counseling in any form is far more helpful than often we imagine it to be. The anticipation, it turns out, very often, to be the most toughest part of the process.
Mental health is as crucial, if not more so, than getting evaluated for the common cold and those sore backs. You are capable of making an appointment to get help and you can take care of your mental health.
*name has been changed