Mental health screening helps detect depression

According to a 2004 survey by the American College Health Association, nearly half of all college students reported feeling so depressed at some point in time that they had trouble functioning, and 15 percent met the criteria for clinical depression. The American Psychological Association states depression now affects nearly 20 million adults in the United States. Additionally, one out of every four young adults will experience a depressive episode by the time they reach 24, according to the National Mental Health Association.

Northern Kentucky University Health, Counseling and Prevention Services counselor Karen Bolte said that free online mental health screenings are offered to “find out if you might need help.”

Screening for Mental Health, Inc. (SMH), a non-profit health organization, first introduced the concept of large-scale mental health screenings in 1991. SMH programs now include both in-person and online programs for depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, eating disorders, alcohol problems and suicide prevention. In 2005, nearly 600,000 screenings were completed at more than 12,000 facilities using SMH programs.The APA reported in February 2006 that college students frequently have more complex problems today than they did more than a decade ago, including both the typical or expected college problems (difficulties in relationships and developmental issues) as well as more severe problems, such as depression and anxiety. Stress, family issues, personality disorders, suicidal thought and trauma from sexual assault showed a steep increase during the 13-year study.”A lot of students live in a chronic state of stress, which can lead to depression,” Bolte said.

According to the National Mental Health Association, signs of depression include a persistent sad, anxious or empty mood, sleeping too little or too much, change in appetite, increased fatigue, restlessness, irritability and thoughts of death or suicide. Getting screened for depression can help students in pain take control of their mental state, Bolte said.

Although Oct. 5 marked National Depression Screening Day, NKU offers year-round online screenings in accordance with SMH regulations, Bolte said. NKU offers screens for six different mental health issues, including depression, bipolar disorder, alcohol problems, eating disorders, generalized anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder. At the end of each screening, immediate results are provided that can be taken to a clinician for evaluation, Bolte said.”The online health screening is a great service. A lot of college students experience anxiety, and I think it is helpful to get information that can identify problems,” said Amanda Tanner, a junior journalism major.Only 63 online screens were taken during the month of September, according to Robin Bading, administrative secretary for the Health, Counseling and Prevention Services.

“I don’t think students realize how many free services the university offers,” Tanner said. “After graduation, students will not have the same access to free healthcare.”

“If (students) feel that something is not right, either with their eating, drinking, or mood, it is important to take care of it,” Bolte said. “All screening and counseling is kept completely confidential.”