Oct 22, 2018

Free depression screening offered to students

Classes. Homework. Tests. Work. Relationships.

Typically, there are many things going on in a college student’s life that can lead to stress and sadness. It can become difficult to distinguish whether negative feelings are simply the result of a little extra pressure in life, or if there is something more serious going on, like clinical depression.

Yesterday, Fresno State’s University Health & Psychological Services department taught students the signs of clinical depression as part of National Depression Screening Day.

During the event, which the campus has been hosting for 15 years, students answered questions on a survey to determine whether they exhibited signs of clinical depression, an anxiety disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder. Then they watched a video about the signs and treatment of different types of depression. Finally, participants met individually with a counselor to discuss the results of their evaluation.

The process was completely confidential. Students did not have to give their names. Instead, their surveys were assigned numbers.

“This is an opportunity for the students and different members of the community to come and get some…information,” said Rebecca Raya-Fernandez, a doctor in clinical psychology and coordinator of the event. “It’s just providing more awareness of depression and what to look for.”

Students who were found to be exhibiting signs of depression after the screening were encouraged to get counseling either with a Health Center counselor or with a counselor off campus.

“It’s not for diagnosis,” Raya-Fernandez said. “If there is a certain concern, then [students] will be given information … We want to basically be instrumental in directing them wherever they need to be.”

According to, a 2004 study by the American College Health Association revealed that “nearly half of all college students report feeling so depressed at some point in time that they have trouble functioning.” In all, 15 percent of the participants in the study met the criteria for clinical depression.

Some signs of depression include suicidal thoughts, lack of interest or pleasure in activities, concentration problems and changes in sleep or appetite.

“Sometimes people are not even aware that they have depression because there are so many different types of symptoms that a person can have, that it’s not just the obvious of depressed mood,” Ryah-Fernandez said.

There are different types of depression, including major depression, manic depression (also known as bipolar disorder), seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and dysthymia, which is a chronic form of depression.

Treatment for depression can include medication, psychotherapy and group therapy. Diagnosing depression early can be beneficial to treatment.

About 50 percent of people who meet the criteria for clinical depression will recover and eventually have a second depressive episode, said Christine Edmondson, a psychology professor on campus with a doctorate in clinical psychology. Of that 50 percent, another 50 percent will have a third episode.

“By the time you’ve had your third depressive episode, the chances are that you’re going to have more,” said Edmondson, who collected data at the screening. “Depression is an illness with a fluctuating course, so the idea is that if the students come in early, we can prevent the second episode of depression, which then increases the likelihood that they’ll remain well.”

Students who missed National Depression Screening Day can visit the Health Center to talk to a counselor. Walk-in hours for counseling are weekdays from 9-11 a.m. and 2-4 p.m.

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