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February 9, 2007

Better depression treatment for college students will be focus of U-M conference

Fifth annual Depression on College Campuses conference sponsored by U-M Depression Center will bring together hundreds of experts, including student leaders

ANN ARBOR, MI – Every year, more than a thousand college students die by suicide, and thousands more attempt to kill themselves. Tens of thousands of other students struggle with depression, bipolar disorder and related problems such as addiction, prescription drug and alcohol abuse, anorexia and bulimia, and self-mutilation or “cutting”.

DOCC imageColleges and universities across the country are working to help students understand these issues and get help. On March 19 and 20, representatives from many campuses will gather at the University of Michigan to share information about what has worked for them and to get the latest research results.

The fifth annual Depression on College Campuses Conference, organized by the University of Michigan Depression Center in collaboration with many U-M schools and colleges, takes place at a time when new national statistics suggest that suicide is on the rise among teenagers, and when parents are worried about the safety of treating depressed young people with antidepressant medications.

At the same time, colleges are struggling with an ever-increasing demand for counseling services, and with legal issues involving suicidal students.

The conference will begin with a first-person account of what it’s like to develop and get help for depression while in college, from Aimee Belisle, who sought treatment for depression while a student at Bentley College, and later made depression awareness her platform during her time as the 2004 Miss Rhode Island. She is now a member of the American Psychiatric Association’s Presidential Task Force on Mental Health on College Campuses. Other students will also share stories of their own experience with depression in college during a special panel on March 20.

The conference will also feature speakers from around U-M, and from institutions such as Harvard, Stanford, Cornell, Penn State and New York University. John Greden, M.D., executive director of the UMDC and chair of the Department of Psychiatry at the U-M Medical School, will give opening and closing remarks.

Several conference sessions will focus on treatment options including talk therapy, carefully monitored medication regimens, Internet-based tools, and telemedicine consultations with psychiatrists for students at rural colleges. Panel discussions will examine University policies and protocols for helping severely distressed students, and also identify key sources of data on student mental health which can be used to help determine appropriate programs and services.

Much of the conference is designed to give college personnel, mental health professionals, student group organizers and others the kind of specific information they need to bring about change on their own campuses. Special breakout sessions for academic advisors, campus administrators, mental health clinicians, faculty, student housing officials and students will foster that sharing.

The conference will also include presentations about current research. For example, Daniel Eisenberg, Ph.D., a member of the UMDC and assistant professor in the U-M School of Public Health, and other researchers, will discuss surveys that are trying to accurately assess how many college students are experiencing or getting treatment for depression, anxiety and related issues. Eisenberg leads the Healthy Minds Study, which will be fielded at nine schools around the country this spring. (For more information, visit

Another highlight of the conference will be the presentation of the first-ever Student Mental Health Advocate Award during a banquet lunch on March 19. Student advocates around the country have poured their energy into raising awareness of depression symptoms, suicide warning signs, and treatment options among their fellow students, and the award was created to recognize those who have made the greatest impact.

The award will be presented by Kathy Cronkite, an author and advocate who has spoken publicly of her own struggle with depression. Nominations are being accepted until Feb. 16 at

Registration for the conference is free for students, including physicians in training. The fee for all others is $99 before March 1, and $115 afterward. Group discounts are available for five or more people from the same campus who register together before March 1. Lunch on March 19 is available for $20 per person.

Continuing medical education credit is available for physicians, psychologists, nurses and social workers.

To register or for more information, visit, send e-mail to or call 734-763-7495.

The University of Michigan Depression Center is the nation’s only comprehensive center dedicated to patient care, research, education and public policy in depression and bipolar disorder. Founded in 2001, its mission is to detect depression and bipolar disorders early, treat them earlier and more effectively, prevent recurrences and progression, counteract stigma, and improve public policy. More than 160 faculty, staff and students from throughout the University are members of the Center.


For more information, contact:
Kara Gavin,, 734-764-2220, or
Elizabeth Sikkenga,, 734-936-4223

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