College can be a stressful time, so the UCC offered free mental health screenings

Overwhelming anxiety affects 60.8 percent of students, while 15.4 percent report they struggle with depression, and 38.2 percent reported depression so heavy that it’s difficult to function.
(Photo courtesy of Katarzyna Bialasiewicz/Getty Images)

Azusa Pacific’s University Counseling Center (UCC) offered free mental health screenings and workshops on Wednesday, Sept. 27 on Cougar Walk and in Seven Palms for National Depression Screening Day.

This year, the first week of October is Mental Health Awareness Week, and National Depression Screening Day is on Oct. 5. The purpose of Mental Health Awareness Week is to raise awareness for the signs and symptoms of mental disorders and promote the solutions and treatments offered by the community.

College campuses are a main area of focus for Mental Health Awareness Week. On their website, the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) said that anxiety disorders are some of the most common mental health problems among college students.

The American College Health Association’s (ACHA) Fall 2016 National College Health Assessment revealed that out of approximately 33,000 students surveyed across the nation, 32.2 percent, feel stress negatively impacts their academic performance. Responsibilities overwhelm 86 percent of students, and 82.6 percent feel exhausted [but not from physical activity]. Overwhelming anxiety affects 60.8 percent of students, while 15.4 percent report they struggle with depression, and 38.2 percent reported depression so heavy that it’s difficult to function.

“[Screening] the college population is unique [from other populations] because y’all are always stressed out. But these tests help us catch those students who are too stressed out so we can help them,” said Linda Abdelsayed, a UCC staff psychologist.

The mental health screenings the UCC performed were three-minute questionnaires surveying the students’ overall levels of anxiety, stress and depression. Some symptoms include difficulty concentrating, lethargy, difficulty sleeping (either too much or too little), changes in appetite (too much or too little), isolation from peers, or suicidal thoughts. They offer support and solutions based on the results of the screenings.

Juan Emmanuel Cometa, an undeclared freshman, said he dealt with anxiety and suspected that he had symptoms depression for a long time.

“I didn’t want to take [the mental health screening], and I was so nervous to find out what the results were,” Cometa said. “I guessed it was finally time to know if I had [depression] or not, so I took the test. They asked a lot of personal questions, like if I had trouble sleeping or if I had or suicidal thoughts. The results didn’t surprise me, though. I know myself pretty well.”

“One of the solutions they suggested was that I come to the Counseling Center and talking to a counselor. I think it could be really nice, having someone to talk to, but to be completely honest, I don’t know if I’ll actually go.” Cometa said. “Opening up is hard, and I don’t know if I want to a see a therapist.”

For many deciding whether or not to see a therapist, stigma, fear, or lack of understanding can be a hindrance. The UCC addressed these concerns with a handout debunking common myths about therapy.

The common misconception that people who need therapists are “crazy,” the fear that opening the floodgate of repressed feelings will make you lose control, or the lack of complete understanding as to what therapy actually is can keep many people from setting up an appointment.

As they explain in the handout, therapy is a conversation where are able to open up to someone whose sole purpose is to listen to you and understand your perspective.The UCC also offers group and relationship counseling, stress management workshops and anxiety toolbox workshops.

In addition to counseling and workshops, Abdelsayed advocates a multi-systems approach to treating these issues to promote holistic healing mentally as well as physical and spiritually. After the screenings, students could visit the booths set up at Seven Palms with some of the suggested solutions, which included the workshops, aroma therapy, counseling and cookies.

One of those booths was an aromatherapy booth hosted by Young Living Essential Oils. Young Living distributor Renee Curtis said that stress, poor diet and lack of exercise can lead to a buildup of toxins that leave people feeling unbalanced.

“You can take these oils internally, apply them topically or diffuse them. They can help promote physical wellness, mental clarity and positive emotions.” Curtis said.

These booths were set up to give students with average stress levels ideas and ways to practice self-care on their own if they find themselves feeling too stressed.

“If you’re stressed out, take time to do what you love—whether that’s listening to music, baking, diffusing essential oils, playing with pets, exercising or even taking long showers. Find something that makes you feel peaceful and restful, and be mindful and intentional about doing that every day.” Abdelsayed said. “You owe it to yourself to take care of yourself.”