By Brian Rinker
Kaiser Health News
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Mental health experts say screening for depression in college is important, not just because university life can be filled with stress but because depression can seriously dampen students’ futures, affecting their academic performance, career outlook and relationships.
Kaiser Health News
Emilia Szmyrgala turned into a zombie during midterms and finals _ a sleepless, non-showering, isolated study monster focused entirely on acing her exams.
The 21-year-old senior at UCLA remembers it being worse in her freshman and sophomore years. When she got into this mode, she might not eat anything all day, except for some Twizzlers. Fears of failure crept in, and life became overwhelming.
“As I got older, I realized I have to take care of myself,” Szmyrgala said. “Even in those finals weeks, there needs to be some semblance of normal life, otherwise it feels unbearable.”
This week, about 10,000 new students are beginning the fall quarter at UCLA, and many will come to experience the same anxieties as Szmyrgala. Some will have an even harder time adjusting to college life, perhaps plunging into severe depression or self-destructive thoughts.
Hoping to head off depression and reduce the stigma of seeking help, UCLA Chancellor Gene Block announced that the school is offering voluntary mental health screenings to all incoming students, freshmen and transfer students.
New student orientation on campus typically involves various activities meant to ease the transition to college – dorm parties, talks with advisers as well as webinars on drinking and sexual conduct.
In recognition of the stress that sometimes comes with such a transition, UCLA is adding screening for depression into the mix.
“To our knowledge, no other university has ever attempted screening of this nature and scale,” Block said during a speech earlier this month at the One Mind Initiative in Napa Valley. “Students who choose to participate will be screened for depression and related traits _ anxiety, mania and suicidal tendencies. And we will offer help to those who need it.”