Screening to explore signs of depression

By Michael McVey

When you stop singing the blues and start feeling them, you may want to set an appointment for Oct. 7.

From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. the NIU Counseling and Student Development Center (CSDC) will participate in National Depression Screening Day. At 10 a.m. Diana Kraft, psychologist for CSDC and the University Health Service, will lecture on the signs and symptoms of depression. Her lecture will be followed by a slide show, “Moving Back Into the Light,” narrated by Dr. Peter Stokes, M.D.

According to CSDC psychologist Richard Long, and co-sponsor of the event with Kraft, CSDC also will offer students a chance to fill out an inventory to see if they are suffering any symptoms of depression. Then CSDC psychologists will meet briefly with students to discuss the results of the inventory and possible forms of treatment if the results indicate depression.

Long said the entire event will take about two hours and be repeated twice starting at noon and 2 p.m. This will give students a chance to find out what depression is, what causes it, how it can be treated and what CSDC offers to students who think they have it.

Depression is a comprehensive and progressive breakdown of a person’s ability to cope with life and its problems, according to Long. There is a whole spectrum of severity of depression and a wide variety of causes. Often the cause has to do with a negative response to some form of loss, such as the breakup of a relationship, the inability to find a relationship partner, or not fulfilling the academic expectations placed on oneself.

As depression progresses, Long said, physical symptoms start to develop such as oversleeping, refusing to deal with one’s problems and lack of self-motivation. The insidious aspect of this condition is that the failure to deal with these problems leads to more problems including bad grades, overdue bills or loss of friends. This in turn leads to more severe depression, completing another round of the vicious spiral.

In its extreme stages, warned Long, depression can lead to physical incapacitation or suicide. Nationally, 10,000 students attempt suicide each year and 1000 succeed. Thus, awareness of depression and the ability of counseling to treat most cases of depression is highly important to the well-being of students.

According to Long, low self-esteem and depression are the two leading reasons given by students for seeking counseling at CSDC last year. Usually a victim of depression will recover after receiving counseling. In the most severe cases, medication or hospitalization are possible forms of treatment.

Long said the biggest obstacle to overcoming depression is the misconception a depressed person should “tough it out.” While calling depression the psychological equivalent of the common cold, affecting 15 million Americans annually, he stressed the importance of getting help. While some people with depression have been able to snap out of it without treatment, Long said, it is dangerous to presume upon one’s ability to recover without help.

Long said this is especially true in advanced stages of depression. Solutions such as moving to a new place, major changes in one’s lifestyle or seeking comfort in religion may help some depression cases, Long said, but many people will not recover from depression without outside help. To stretch the common cold analogy, he said trying to overcome severe forms of depression alone would be like trying to treat pneumonia without seeing a doctor.

Long said that CSDC offers help to depressed students and the Employee Wellness and Assistance Program offers help to faculty and staff suffering depression. People experiencing constant fatigue, changes in sleeping and eating habits, a feeling of hopelessness or worthlessness or especially a feeling of sadness for no apparent reason should seek counseling from one of these offices.

Long mentioned the recent publicity of depression has contributed to public awareness, but he said there’s still a long way to go in fighting ignorance or public misconception about the nature of depression.