Occasionally, everyone has “one of those days,” when everything seems to go wrong and nothing can make it better. When a day turns into weeks and even months, however, this could be a sign of depression. Depression is a common but serious illness that no one should have to live with. Oct. 7 is National Depression Screening Day (NDSD), the nation’s longest running community-based screening program, established by Screening for Mental Health, Inc. (SMH). Sunshine Manor participates in this day, allowing students to complete a simple questionnaire screening on depression.
“Do you hold the key to happiness?” ads on Facebook, FAMU Info reminder e-mails and flyers were distributed to the student body to get students informed and involved. Rachelle Jean-Louis, Licensed Mental Health Counselor, emphasized the importance of the ads because students are unlikely to walk in on their own and seek help due to a negative stigma associated with receiving mental health treatment.
The screening evaluates students’ level of depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety and post traumatic stress disorder by asking questions tracking their feelings over the course of six months. The questionnaire specifically probed behavioral characteristics, sexual practices and thought processes. Each year approximately 100 students are surveyed and, as an incentive, treats like ice cream are served. Students’ screenings are evaluated directly after completion and an appointment with one of the therapists in Sunshine Manor is offered to students who test positive.
“Depression can take over your life and people won’t want to be around you because of your attitude. When I hear the word depression, I think of someone trying to hurt them self, not wanting to live and not feeling they have purpose in life,” Aicha Toure, 18, a freshman theatre student from Fort Lauderdale, said.
Sunshine Manor offers every student on campus 12 free sessions per semester. Compared to problems like relationship issues, the most frequent problem for which students seek help, treatment for depression is not very common on campus. The NDSD is only one of three national level screenings Sunshine Manor offers annually. The eating disorder screening in March and the alcohol abuse screening in April are also screenings to look out for.
According to theNational Institute of Mental Health, symptoms of depression include ongoing sad, anxious or empty feelings, feelings of hopelessness, feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness, unusual sleeping habits, overeating or loss of appetite and/or ongoing aches and pains, headaches, cramps or continuous digestive problems. Anonymous screenings are also available online at http://www.mentalhealthscreening.org/