Health Center joins schools in fight against depression

TCU is one of 20 universities in the National College Depression Partnership, an 18-month initiative program to learn more about how to identify students with depression, a university physician said.

Dr. Mary Rae, primary physician of the Brown-Lupton Health Center, said health and counseling staff attended a workshop at the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators mental health conference in January. After attending the conference, the university joined the others in an effort to share information on how to treat depression in college students, Rae said.

Other schools participating in the program are Princeton University, Cornell University,Case Western Reserve University, Northeastern University, St. Lawrence University, and New York University, where the project was founded.

“One of the aspects of the partnership is collaboration between primary care staff and counseling staff,” Rae said.

The purpose of the project is to improve the quality of care for students with depression, and what is learned will be used to treat students long after the project ends, Rae said.

According to the Web site for the National Institute for Mental Health, about one in four adults suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year. In addition, mental disorders are the leading cause of disability in the United States and Canada for 15-to-44-year-olds.

Patients that visit the Health Center will be screened for depression by answering a two-question questionnaire, Rae said. Answers to the first two questions will determine if patients need to answer nine in-depth survey questions. Responses to the nine survey questions will determine if patients are candidates for counseling.

The questions in the questionnaire are symptom-based questions, such as if the patient is experiencing a loss of interest or suicidal thoughts, university counselor Linda Wolszon said.

Participation in the National College Depression Partnership will help health and counseling center staff to learn the best methods for identifying students with symptoms of depression, Wolszon said. The increased need for screening was discussed at the conference, she said.

“Incidents like the incident at Virginia Tech have caused screening to reach a higher priority among student affairs personnel,” Wolszon said. “We need to identify the people who need counseling and offer to get them treatment as soon as possible.”

The overall goal of this program is to improve the quality of life for students, Wolszon said.

“We know that depression affects concentration, motivation and mood and ignoring those issues can lead to a disastrous semester,” Wolszon said.

TCU psychologist Eric Wood has been aggressively reaching out to promote awareness of depression on a ground level, Wolszon said. Wood and other members of the counseling center offer free screening for depression at awareness events, Wolszon said.

The counseling center also hosts events such as Depression Screening Days, Wood said, and during these events students can be screened for symptoms of depression in various locations on campus.

The Web site for the counseling center also provides online screening. The counseling center and its staff offers training seminars to faculty and staff about helping students who might be depressed or have symptoms of depression, Wood said.