Suicide is the second leading cause of death for college students in America, according to JedFoundation.org, a nationwide mental health organization that leads the country in preventing student suicides. Sometimes students may feel like they have a problem but don’t have time to seek help, others might not know where to look. The University’s Counseling Center understands these issues and is attempting to make it as easy as possible to obtain the needed help.
In 2003, USF started using an online mental health screening, similar to those used by other universities around the country. The survey allows students to administer tests on themselves to see if they have a serious problem such as depression, bipolar disorder, alcoholism, eating disorders, generalized anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder. The test allows students to view possible diagnoses for what they are feeling.
“There are a couple major purposes to this. One is just an outreach service,” said Dale Hicks, associate director of the Counseling Center. “There are a lot of people who are just hesitant to come in for counseling, so we want them to at least have a resource there if they are concerned about themselves, and they want to kind of determine whether or not they do have something going on.”
Even though the survey may not be highly recognized around campus, in four years almost 18,000 online tests have been taken, Hicks said. The depression test has been taken the most at about 6,000, while anxiety is second at 5,000, which Hicks said shows that people are aware that they do have symptoms. The Counseling Center issued an e-mail to students earlier this month reminding them that the survey is available.
The online screening is completely anonymous. The test is short and asks simple questions about the student’s current emotional status. Once the test is taken, its results are immediate. If the site indicates that the student may have a problem, there are directions to contact the Counseling Center.
According the American College Health Association’s Spring 2006 Web Summary, 18 percent of students reported having depression, while 12 percent reported having anxiety.
“We want to assist students in being able to function well and have full access to their intellectual abilities, be able to study effectively, learn effectively, stay in school and graduate,” said Hicks. “So we are here for anything that interferes – any kind of an obstacle.”
While they do see people who have serious problems, Hicks said that the majority of students have smaller complications. The Center’s primary goal is to ensure students be happy and enjoy their college experience.
The Counseling Center is a free service with licensed psychologists and psychiatrists. It is open to all students and is meant to help them through their time in college. For more information, visit their Web site http://usfweb2.usf.edu/counsel.