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Brave hosts free depression screening day

Students pet therapy dog at Beat the Blues, an event for Seasonal Affective Disorder on Tuesday, Jan. 12. // Photo by Tyler Hillis
Students pet therapy dog at Beat the Blues, an event for Seasonal Affective Disorder on Tuesday, Jan. 12. // Photo by Tyler Hillis

SEE FOLLOW-UP VIDEO: Beat the Blues event fights seasonal depression

Sixty-one percent of Western students feel overwhelming anxiety, yet 62 percent haven’t received information on stress reduction, according to an American College Health Association survey.

On Tuesday, Jan. 12, BRAVE, a suicide prevention program at Western, the Counseling Center and Associated Students Outreach are hosting Beat the Blues, an annual event featuring free mental health screenings, therapy dogs and information on stress reduction and Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, is a period of depression that typically reoccurs in the winter but can occur anytime throughout the year, according to an article published in American Family Physician.  SAD is under the umbrella of mood disorders and can be difficult to discern from depression or other disorders,  said Shari Robinson, director of Western’s Counseling Center.

Symptoms of SAD are similar to that of depression; increased appetite and fatigue, energy loss, loss of interest in work or activities, and difficulty in concentration, Robinson said .

SAD is subclinical, meaning that symptoms don’t quite meet the bar for depression, but can progress if left untreated, Robinson said.

“When we have the shorter days, I think an individual is more inclined or susceptible to experiencing winter blues or SAD,” Robinson said

Beat the Blues, held in the Viking Union Multi-Purpose Room, will share information with students about how they can combat stress and get healthy sleep as well as find how to get social support,  BRAVE’s Project Manager, Farrah Greene-Palmer said.

BRAVE, which stands for Building Resilience and Voicing Empathy, works to provide strong support for students going through a tough time. Voicing empathy works to build up another person’s resilience and BRAVE tries to encourage others to not only help others, but to be helped too, Greene-Palmer said.

About 5 percent of the U.S. population experiences SAD in a given year, according to an article published in American Family Physician.  

Two-thirds of patients at Western’s Counseling Center are women and one-third are men. However, more male students have attempted suicide than female, according to Western Counseling Center statistics.

This could be due to the fact that men generally try to conform to their societal role and don’t ask for help, Robinson said.

“I think they can perceive [asking for help] as weakness and the research has also suggested that,” Robinson said. “It may be easier for women due to how women are socialized and utilize their social supports.”

Social support networks are a strong method for building resilience, Greene-Palmer said.

One of the counseling center’s recommended ways of remedying SAD is 30 minutes a day in front of a SAD lamp, a therapy tool, which delivers a powerful dose of white light to make up for the loss of natural light.  Students have a chance to raffle and win a SAD lamp at Beat the Blues, Greene-Palmer said.

Greene-Palmer works with a team of students every quarter to organize and run BRAVE events like the Healthy Minds Fair last November, 2015,  and Beat the Blues this Tuesday.   

“Don’t suffer in silence,” Robinson said. “Your student health fees pay for our services.  This is something you’re entitled to.”



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