Parkland offers depression screenings

Peter Floess

Crystal Bates, Parkland College, Prospectus News, Peter Floess, Depression

Photo provided by Kelly Youngblood of Crystal Bates’ arms

Parkland will be holding a depression screening for students later this month in the hope of helping those with depression understand the condition better and provide resources to  help them cope. The event will include free and confidential screening for depression and information about it. There will be a viewing of a video, “The Truth about Suicide: Real Stories of Depression in College,” followed by a panel discussion involving local mental health professionals and spokespeople from support groups. These experts will try to answer any questions a person may have about depression and direct people with the condition toward obtaining effective help.

Crystal Bates, a Parkland student trustee who dealt with depression, and John Sheahan, the director of Parkland’s Counseling and Advising Center, listed some symptoms:

– difficulty concentrating,

– loss of interest in previously-enjoyable activities,

– a lack of motivation,

– noticeable changes in sleeping and eating patterns,

– long-term persistent sadness,

– social isolation,

– inexplicable aches and pains,

– and suicide contemplation or ideation.

Bates reminds people that just because a person has a few of the symptoms they are not necessarily depressed, but she encourages everyone to get tested for depression. She says a person who has undiagnosed depression may blame the wrong things for their mood. If they know they have depression, they can know what they can do next and what they can do about it.

According to Carrie Taylor, an instructor of abnormal psychology at Parkland, there exists a long list of possible instigators of depression and that it is affected by both internal and external factors.

“The causes of depression are complex and involve biological, psychological, and sociocultural factors,” Taylor said. “Family and twin studies indicate that there is probably a genetic contribution to depression. Chemicals in the brain and body may also play a role. […] The experience of stressful life events may also be an important factor in the onset of depression.”

Taylor also cites relationship problems as being potential contributors to the development of depression.

Bates urges people to understand that, “depression is nothing to be ashamed of.”

Bates is the vice president of ACCESS, a depression support club at Parkland. In addition to her involvement with ACCESS, Bates shows her support for suicide survivors by having a semicolon tattoo, which—just like a semicolon signals the continuation of an idea in a sentence—represents to people  “that there is something after” in life and “to pick up the pieces and carry on,” she says.

She also has tattoos on her wrists regarding bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Bates hopes to become a clinical psychologist and to work with military personel or anyone who needs to help with their mental health. She is happy with the mental health services at Parkland, and she says she visits a counselor at the school frequently.

Another group dedicated to supporting those with depression is the National Alliance on Mental Illness, which has branches in Champaign and in the University of Illinois. President of the UIUC branch Andy Wu hopes to expand NAMI to Parkland soon, either as a new branch or as part of the U of I’s. Parkland counselor Dennis Cockrum often attends NAMI UIUC meetings.

Wu says NAMI is the largest grassroots organization for the support of mental health in the United States. NAMI’s goal is to fight stigma surrounding mental disorders, mostly through education and public outreach. NAMI UIUC does outreach through the resident halls with lots of incoming freshmen and at Urbana Middle School.

There are numerous resources in the community, both at the local and national levels, that work to help those with  mental illness, such as the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration which operates a 24/7, year-round emergency telephone service for those contemplating suicide. Getting in touch with SAMHSA may speed up one’s process of getting in to see mental health professionals and working through their depressiomn.

Parkland’s depression screening event will be held on Wednesday, Oct. 19 in U140.