USF offers free depression screenings on campus

USF is participating in the annual National Depression Screening Day on Thursday for anyone who thinks they might be suffering from depression.

Approximately 18.8 million American adults — or about 9.5 percent of the U.S. population age 18 and older — have a depressive disorder, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. The NIMH Web site also states that major depressive disorder is the leading cause of disability in the United States.

Leonard Kirklen, coordinator for clinicians and a psychologist at the USF Counseling Center for Human Development, said feelings of hopelessness, sadness and a lack of energy are just a few of the symptoms of depression.

Karen Milo, clinical psychologist and assistant professor in the USF Department of Psychiatry in Behavioral Medicine, said the event, which is open to students and the community, tests for depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder.

“The questionnaire portion of the screening lasts about ten to fifteen minutes and another ten to fifteen minutes with a professional to go over results,” Milo said.

In addition, Kirklen said depression is one of the top reasons students go to the Counseling Center.

“I’d have to check my facts, but I believe depression is the number one psychological condition reported in the country,” he said.

There are different levels of depression, including mild, moderate and severe, said Kirklen. He added that often the mild level of depression requires little treatment, which might simply be time passage or utilization of a support system such as family to share problems with. However, moderate to severe depression is best combated with heavier forms of treatment.

“Research shows the best treatment (for moderate to severe depression) is counseling paired with medication,” Kirklen said. “Medication often stabilizes the person’s mood and helps them feel more energetic, optimistic and benefit more in counseling, which helps them cope with the situation that brought on depression.”

He added that there are different causes of depression, such as an imbalance in brain chemistry (in which case the depression appears to be inherited) and/or a response to a stressful or traumatic situation.

“A person may become depressed when they feel overwhelmed with responsibility, lose a relationship, experience death of a loved one or undergo a situational change,” Kirklen said.

Kirklen said often people who are depressed and in need of treatment don’t seek help because they are embarrassed.

“They see it as a sign of weakness that they can’t manage their own life, and they don’t want to be labeled as depressed,” Kirklen said. “My advice is to seek support and to have a free screening so they can receive treatments,” Kirklen said.

If someone is still uncomfortable with participating in the screening, the USF Center for Counseling and Development offers a free brief and anonymous online screening on their Web site

The National Depression Day screening is free, confidential and includes a questionnaire and a brief interview with a USF mental professional.

If results indicate depression, treatment solutions are suggested, but no further participation is required. The event will be held from 9 a.m. to noon at the USF Medical Clinic, 1 to 7 p.m. at the USF Psychological Services Center (PCD 1100) and from 3 to 5 p.m. at the USF Counseling Center for Human Development (SVC 2124).