Minimal mental health awareness at SF State

Thursday, Oct. 5 is National Depression Screening Day (NDSD). Many college campuses hold mental health awareness events and provide opportunities for students, faculty and staff to fill out a depression screening survey. This year, SF State is not one of those campuses.

Here at SF State, 88 percent of the health-related factors that students report as negatively impacting their academic performance are mental health issues. Stress (31.4 percent), anxiety (20.8 percent), sleep difficulties (20.1 percent), and depression (15.7 percent) were the most prevalent reported issues in 2016.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), approximately 1 in 5 American adults experience mental illness in a given year. Of those adults, approximately 60 percent went without diagnosis or mental health services in the previous year(s).

Amber Pebley, a first year theater major, was diagnosed with mild depression in high school. Although she suspects her condition may have worsened since her original diagnosis, she has not utilized any mental health services.

“I can’t afford to go to a psychiatrist to get tests done and not everyone knows about all the services that are available here,” said Pebley. “And even though I know they’re available, I don’t know where [on campus] to go.”

Kenneth Phan, a first year economics major, also doesn’t know where to seek mental health services at SF State, despite there being three locations on campus that provide free services – the Student Health Center, Counseling and Psychological Services, and Health Promotion & Wellness.

“I’ve heard of two of the services, but I don’t know where they are and I probably wouldn’t go looking for them,” said Phan.

NDSD was created by an organization called Screening for Mental Health precisely for this reason – most mental health services, for whatever reason, are not easily accessible to those who need it. Since its birth in 1990 as the first voluntary mental health screening initiative, NDSD programs have developed across the nation and expanded to college campuses, community organizations, and military installations.

The general screening provided during NDSD covers several types of depression, each with varying symptoms. The first type of depression is minor depression, which manifests symptoms such as difficulty sleeping, difficulty concentrating, and low self-esteem. Major depression, which is a more serious illness, is the second type of depression.

Major depression manifests the same symptoms as minor depression as well as thoughts of death or suicide. The third type is seasonal affective disorder, also known as SAD. Sufferers of SAD experience symptoms of minor and major depression during the fall and winter seasons due to lack of sunlight. In addition to screening for depression, the questionnaire also covers generalized anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and mood disorders.

“It kind of sucks that the school isn’t doing anything because a booth or event would be easier to approach,” said Pebley. “They need to be more in your face about it.”

The Golden Gate XPress reached out to the health services department on campus, but did not receive a response for comment.

In April, the Xpress reported on the university’s move to no longer permit therapists and doctors in SF State’s Student Health Services program to write letters of support for students in need of emotional support animals.

According Screening for Mental Health, a study done by the University of Connecticut showed the optional screenings provided during NDSD awareness events have been proven effective in connecting individuals who suffer from depression with help. The study showed that 55 percent of those who had participated were more likely to seek treatment within three months of the initial screening.

Although no events are being held on campus for NDSD, Counseling and Psychological Services are available in the Student Services building Monday-Thursday 8 a.m. – 7 p.m. and Fridays 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. General depression screening surveys can also be taken anonymously online at the Screening for Mental Health website. Additionally, organizations like the National Institute of Mental Health and Mental Health America have hotline numbers and websites available 24/7.

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