By Jon Tollestrup
In an effort to shed light on the dark issues surrounding mental illness, the BYU Counseling and Career Center is taking part in National Depression Screening Day by offering students a free screening for depression and anxiety.
The confidential screenings will be held today from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. in Room 2590 of the Wilkinson Student Center. They are open to everyone seeking help from depression and anxiety or for people just wanting to learn more about these medical conditions.
?This is part of a national effort from the American Psychological Association to encourage people to consider mental health questions,? said Michael Buxton, associate clinical professor. ?These screenings will be going on at other campuses across the country.?
The screening process begins by showing a short video dealing with such topics as recognizing common symptoms of depression. Then participants fill out a questionnaire designed to assess the degree to which they are currently experiencing symptoms of depression and anxiety. Finally, students briefly visit with a counselor to discuss the results of the questionnaire.
All of the counselors participating in the screening process are licensed professionals or graduate students who work in the BYU counseling center. Throughout the day there will be at least four to five counselors on hand, so students won?t have to wait in a long line. The whole process takes up to 20 minutes.
?The screening is really a pretty non-intrusive and safe way of doing it,? said Tyler Pedersen, another associate clinical professor who is coordinating the event. ?[Getting screened for depression] is kind of like checking your blood pressure. It?s a good thing to check once in a while, but it doesn?t necessarily mean you have a problem.?
At the end of the process, the counselor will inform the student of possible treatment options if results from the screening indicate any serious problems. Treatment options available to students range from free counseling sessions at the Counseling and Career Center to referrals to community resources.
?Many, if not most people, at some point in their life, will encounter situations, stressors and difficulties that they may not be equipped to deal with,? Pedersen said. However, friends and family members of those who suffer from a mental illness sometimes avoid helping because they are hesitant to say anything or because they aren?t educated enough to recognize the problem, Pedersen said. Becoming educated to help others in dealing with depression is one reason Pedersen said he encourages people to attend today?s program.
?We?ll have a lot of pamphlets and information basically identifying symptoms, understanding causes and then different treatment options,? he said. ?So this can be just as much about education as it is about a person receiving a personal screening or diagnosis.?
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, depression is not a passing mood or a condition that can be willed away, and, with the right treatment, 80 percent of those who seek help get better.
?Depression is mostly caused by a variety of physical, genetic, environmental and social factors and is not due to weakness or other character deficits,? Pedersen said. ?If a treatment or someone else could significantly improve the quality of one”s life, then why not try it??
For more information, students can call the personal center of the Counseling and Career Center at 422-3035. For more information about National Depression Screening Day, visit mentalhealthscreening.org.