Kent State will host its 17th annual National Depression Screening Day Thursday in the Student Center.
The university is offering free and confidential depression screening to students, staff and the Kent community from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
“It’s our most important outreach program,” said John Schell, clinical psychologist and co-coordinator of National Depression Screening Day.
This year the event has expanded to the Stark campus as well.
“The goal is always to reach more students,” Schell said. “This is our first year doing it at Stark campus, and we would like to add more and more campuses each year.”
At the Kent campus, it will be held on the 2nd floor of the Student Center and at Stark in the Herbert W. Hoover Foundation Counseling Center.
The University Health Services is also sponsoring two $250 scholarships that will be raffled to student participants.
Many students aren’t aware of the symptoms of depression, as well as the treatments available on campus, Schell said.
Schell said college students are vulnerable to depression because of academic, social and financial demands of college, as well as adjustment challenges.
It’s important for students who believe they may have depression to seek treatment, according to Schell.
“The biggest concern is that once you’ve become depressed, you have a greater likelihood of becoming depressed again, especially if left untreated,” Schell said. “Over time depression can worsen, and symptoms become more significant.”
Kent State sophomore John Smith, whose name has been changed for anonymity, said he’s been struggling with depression for a few years.
Read about the therapy dogs available on National Depression Screening Day.
“The worst feeling in the world is having this condition — this thing that people can’t see or feel or understand — and knowing that you won’t be able to explain it to anyone who doesn’t have it,” Smith said.
Smith said his depression is genetic and he always anticipated it, but it only became unmanageable recently.
“It’s this underlying emotion that people can’t see,” Smith said. “It’s like even when you’re happy and things are going your way, there’s this constant underlying feeling of sadness, and it never quite goes away.”
Assistant professor of psychology Karin Coifman said depression can mean many different things.
“People can go into extreme periods of negative feelings,” Coifman said.
According to Coifman, several symptoms of depression are sleep disruption, lack of common interest or desire, feelings of guilt or worthlessness and — in extreme cases — suicidal tendencies.
“It’s also hard to be confident in yourself,” Smith said. “I always think people think I’m lying, or things are my fault, even though I know they aren’t.”
Schell and Coifman said people suffering from depressive symptoms should seek help.
Kent State screened 835 students at last year’s event and referred over 30 percent to mental health services for treatment.
Treatment, however, doesn’t necessarily mean medications.
“We use medications in treating depressive disorders or mood disorders, but it really depends on the situation,” Coifman said. “To use it effectively, you really need to be evaluated carefully.”
Therapy can be a very effective treatment for depression even without medication, Schell said.
“There are many people who, through counseling or some psychological work, are able to learn how to see things differently without medication,” Schell said.
Smith said he declined medication when his psychiatrist diagnosed him with depression, but over time his depression has worsened, and he has considered accepting the medication if a psychiatrist offers it.
“I was determined to beat this on my own…,” Smith said. “It will sometimes go away, but when it comes back, it comes back harder than it used to.”
Smith said he sees the depression in a new light.
“I now see the important thing isn’t to beat this by yourself and be proud you’re taking this thing head on,” Smith said. “The important thing is to not miss out on life.”
Contact Rex Santus at [email protected]