Peer educators from CHILL offered the first free depression screening of the semester on Thursday. They set up in the commuter student lounge in the SAC, a room where about 20 students were studying quietly.
This latest screening comes after the New York Times ran an article last December about mental health problems among university students. The writer used the conditions of employees of Stony Brook’s Center for Prevention and Outreach as an example of a program struggling with both increased use by students and budget cuts.
Students from CHILL, a student group focused on mental health, handed out pamphlets and a survey that listed warning signs of depression. If an individual’s responses indicated that there may be a problem they were referred to a mental health professional in the next room to discuss a course of action or possible treatment.
Meanwhile students from CHOICE set up an exercise called ‘the pour’ to raise awareness about drinking at parties. In it, students are asked to pour one drink of beer or one shot into the red cups often seen at parties. They then transferred the liquid into a clear container marked with the actual amount to see how they did.
Based on her experience running this exercise in the past, CHOICE educator Vela Chebolu estimates that students pour “an average of four shots of liquor in each mixed drink.” Students who used to consider that to be one drink see this exercise as an eye-opener.
While CHILL and CHOICE have problems receiving funding, they are able to hold events like this due to help state grants. Both tables were staffed by trained student volunteers and observed by trainees.
The two groups also handed out small packages about sleep education containing ear plugs, HIV prevention with condoms and referrals for testing, and flu prevention holding educational material and hand sanitizer.
The Times article, which may have opened some eyes in the campus community, came as little surprise to the faculty at the CPO. “We were well aware of the problems before the Times,” said Health Educator and Program Coordinator Kathleen Valerio.
The article, while high-profile, did not help the CPO secure any additional funding. “There hasn’t been enough time for that yet,” said Valerio. She did make it clear, however, that the administration was aware of student’s emotional and mental health needs. “Our mental services are ranked in the top 10% in the country,” she pointed out.
Despite being overcrowded, the CPO is still extending a hand to students in need. Depression screenings are held biweekly in the Union Lobby and typically serve about 100 students, according to Valerio.