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Mental Illness Causing More Concern On Campus
College Spotlight on Student Depression
Faculty, administrators look for early clues to depression

The following article was written by Matt Krupnick of McClatchy Newspapers, and was published in the Albuquerque Journal on April 22, 2007.   

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Berkeley, Calif...The numbers are startling: Four of every 10 college students have been so depressed at some point in the past year, that they were unable to function. 

At the University of California at Berkeley, where a 2004 study revealed widespread depression
among graduate students, counselors are asking university employees to step in and help when they see signs of mental illness.  They worry that disturbing rants or essays could erupt into violence like Monday's Virginia Tech shootings. 

With statistics on depression, mental illness and suicide climbing higher on college campuses everywhere, administrators and counselors are searching for ways to prevent catastrophes. 
"Now these are problems for the campus as a whole,
"  said Jeffrey Prince, director of the university's counseling and psychological services.  "This is no longer something that can be addressed through counseling services."

In Virginia, faculty members told reporters that shooter Cho Seung-Hui turned in disturbing schoolwork that led them to report him to Virginia Tech's counseling center.  Berkeley instructors are being trained to react in the same way: ask counselors for advice if a student seems depressed or violent. 

The training includes overcoming obstacles such as the stigma of mental troubles, heavy faculty workloads and a feeling among some professors that such intimate conversations with students are too awkward.  Administrators are taking mental health seriously enough, however, to consider evaluating professors partly on how well they help students with such issues. 

"I don't feel like they are ready," said chemistry professor Heino Nitsche, the co-chairman of a university committee on student mental health.  "They need some profound training."  Professors, students and experts agree that mental illness has become more of a problem at colleges everywhere.  Some say it's partly a result of antidepressant drugs making college more accessible to affected students.  Other say parents put too much pressure on their children to achieve academic success. 
In some cases, helping a student is as easy as asking them how they're doing, Nitsche said.  "Very often, I've seen that people are under distress," he said.  "I sense when something is not right.  We are not going to be psychologists or psychiatrists, but it doesn't take much to know there's something there."

Sometimes, maintaining one's sanity is as easy as taking time away from campus.  "I think it's important to have some sort of outlet, some sort of symbolic separation." said 22 year-old undergraduate Robert Sepdeda.  "I don't think that many people do."  Other students manage by completely embedding themselves in college's busy workload. 

"It keeps you occupied," said 18 year old student Jiayi Zhou.  "You're going through a routine, you have things to do."  University police said they have worked with counselors and others on campus to prevent problems, but said they usually get called several times every semester to deal with suicidal students. 

"Mostly, we're fortunate to get to them before anything bad happens," Lt. Douglas Wing said.  "Occasionly, we get to them after something bad happens."  In addition to the obvious reasons for preventing student suicides and self-inflicted injuries, universities also have legal reasons for preventive action these days.  Some parents have sued schools they say failed to prevent their children's deaths. 

At Berkeley, counselors are considering opening unmarked campus offices where concerned professors could send depressed students.  The offices, they say, would help students get past the additional obstacle caused by counselors' current location at the university's more institutional health center. 

All universities need outside help to prevent campus violence, said Prince, the counseling director.  "By and large, we're all underfunded for the amount of work that needs to be done," he said.  "One would hope this raises the awareness that there's always more to do."
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My articles published 100+ websites
To all the young people out there...STAY IN SCHOOL
==========================================
Jerry Aragon; The Humor Doctor         humordoctormd@yahoo.com
Main Street; Front Page                       Free Stuff/come see
Site Map/site contents                          The Creative Center
Writers Section                                    The Humor Clinic
The Funny Farm                                  Articles Published
Orange Barrel Humor                          Corporate Sponsor page