As Ytzya Sanches presented her research on depression in the gay community, she reflected on how she became interested in the topic: at a restaurant outing with her niece.
“My niece was shocked and disappointed by the waiter’s voice because she thought he sounded like a girl,” said Sanches, a senior health education major. “She wondered why he spoke like a girl when he’s a boy.”
Sanches thought about how her niece’s reaction might make the server feel. From that moment she felt that it was important to address sexual orientation and gender in order to erase the stigma of negativity toward anyone who does not conform to gender norms.
Sanches was one of 13 students and faculty of the health education department who presented their research in the public health field at the 2nd Annual Health Symposium Wednesday, April 16, in Jack Adams Hall.
“The student presentations were excellent, and it was a great opportunity for them to present the work they do in and outside the classroom in a professional setting,” said José Ramón Fernández-Peña, an associate professor in the department of health education.
Sanches found that gay men are more likely to experience depression compared to heterosexual men and women, and contributing factors to depression included preexisting conditions such as HIV and internalized homophobia based on social interactions.
Sanches also found that there is treatment for people experiencing depression, but it can have side effects that range from mild to severe, from headaches to gastrointestinal bleeding.
One of the solutions that she proposed is to start changing the environment for everyone by informing ourselves and raising awareness about depression in the gay community.
She also suggested that people need to start using language in a positive way that is respectful of others and won’t make anyone feel as if they need to conceal their identity.
Sara Suter, another health education senior who spoke about Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), a mental health disorder characterized by persistent, excessive and unrealistic worrying about everyday things consistently for six months.
Suter, who currently has the disorder, discovered that the college population has a high vulnerability for (GAD) due to factors such as adjusting to a new environment and stress from finances and work, which can create symptoms including restlessness and muscle tension.
Suter mentioned that one of the barriers for college students for accessing mental health services is location, so she proposed that the resources on campus should refer students to off-campus locations because they would be more private and suitable for the individual.
Some students do not use these services because they may be embarrassed to be seen by others, according to Suter. She stressed that the stigmatization associated with mental disorders needs to stop in order for students to desire treatment.
“When ‘I’ is replaced by ‘we’, even illness becomes wellness,” said Suter. “We need to gather the community and become more aware of this issue by creating dialogue and being an ally for support as a whole.”