Depression Targets College Students

Depression Targets College Students

Depression often begins in young adults, which places college students in range to suffer from depression and other mental illnesses. The University of California Los Angeles has launched a Grand Depression Challenge including a free screening to determine whether or not a student is suffering from mental illness. Photo Illustration. (Ryan Naeve/The Vista)

UCLA Fights Back With Free Screenings through their Grand Depression Challenge.

As part of a new long-term initiative to fight depression, the University of California Los Angeles launched voluntary free mental health screenings for students to determine the state of their mental health and begin any needed treatment.

“These interventions are long overdue. Depression is the leading cause of disability,” said Jonathan Flint, professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences at UCLA’s Brain Research Institute. “There hasn’t been enough done to try to alleviate the burden on those suffering from it.”


The screening is part of the school’s Grand Depression Challenge, a campus-wide endeavor to reduce the impact of depression globally by 50 percent by the year 2050. It was initially announced in Sept. 2017 by UCLA Chancellor Gene Block and originally targeted freshmen and transfer students with the intent to expand to the entire campus.

UCLA’s initial screening of 2,000 students reported that 82 were at risk for severe depression, 79 students reported symptoms of manic behavior and 82 reported suicidal thoughts.

“The majority of people will experience at least one major depressive period in their lifetime,” said Audrey Woods, staff therapist of Edmond Family Counseling. “It’s one of the most common problems that people have to face and it doesn’t have to be as an extreme case like suicidal thoughts. It could be that you’re not enjoying things as much as you used to. It’s a lot of isolation. You spend most of your time in your room sleeping or watching TV. Maybe you used to be a really social person, but you don’t like going out anymore.”

Depression and anxiety often begin in young adults, prompting UCLA to institute these screenings to identify and treat students for mental health issues and possible provide new insights into how and why psychiatric diseases originate in younger people.

“Think of it like this, if you scrape your knee, your body heals itself. But what if you kept scraping at it? Then it’s never going to heal,” said Woods. “So you might need someone to help you stop scraping at it or give you a Band-Aid or ointment. Now, this doesn’t mean that it’s their fault, it just means that it’s not something you can just ‘get over.'”

The screening is a first step in a much larger project involving more than 100 UCLA faculty members from more than 20 academic departments. The researchers are working to uncover the biological causes of depression and develop innovative treatment options.

“It can be very easy to look around the world in a lens that says ‘everybody else is happy, why am I so sad,'” said Woods. “With prescribing medication, that’s where it gets a bit tricky. There’s tons of research that does prove that medication with talk-based therapy together is the most effective treatment for depression. Now, that doesn’t mean that everybody needs medication. Some people might be able to bounce back with just talk-based therapy.”

The student screening program is unique in both size and scope. UCLA leaders hope it creates a template for other universities in the U.S. and abroad.

Audrey Woods, staff therapist of Edmond Family Counseling, said that one major distraction that could hinder the healing process of depression is social media.

“So many people suffer from depression and it’s only exacerbated by social media,” said Woods. “You can look at a person’s social media account and think ‘they’re so happy.’ No one takes pictures of them being alone and sad. They only want to show you the happy stuff and the pictures they look phenomenal in. And that’s normal for social media, but that’s not normal for everyday life. Nobody does that.”

For help here on campus, The University of Central Oklahoma’s Center for Counseling and Well-Being offers free counseling to students as well as numerous support groups during the week for varying mental and physical health. The center can be found in Nigh University Center Room 402.

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