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January 30, 2008

College mental health in the wake of Virginia Tech:

U-M Depression Center conference March 18-19 focuses on creating healthy campus communities

Ann Arbor, MI – For the sixth straight year, the University of Michigan Depression Center will host the nation’s leading conference on college mental health issues on March 18 and 19, bringing together psychologists, doctors, nurses, counselors, researchers, administrators and students.

Depression on College Campuses logoBut in the wake of the April 2007 tragedy on the campus of Virginia Tech, the conference has taken on a heightened significance.

Now more than ever, colleges and universities are developing comprehensive education, outreach and treatment programs to address the mental health needs of diverse student populations, in order to provide a safe, supportive community for all.

The U-M conference will help institutions of all kinds do just that, as attendees share information, review the latest research results, and learn about the “best practices” and model programs that have worked on other campuses.

A broad range of speakers will focus on everything from suicide prevention programs and student outreach efforts to special issues facing certain student populations. A poster session will allow even more students, faculty and others to share the results of specific projects and programs that they have introduced on their campuses.

The opening keynote speaker will be Richard Keeling, M.D., the chairman of Keeling & Associates, an independent higher education consulting practice. He is the former director of University Health Services at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and of the Department of Student Health at the University of Virginia. His speech is titled“Remembered, if Outlived: Transforming the Experience of Depression in College.”

The conference will close with another keynote address, “Protective Factors to Prevent Depression in College.” It will be given by Carl Bell, M.D., the president and CEO of Community Mental Health Council, Inc. and a clinical professor of psychiatry and public health at the Universityof Illinois.

The conference will be held in the Rackham Graduate School on the U-M Campus, and a full schedule is available at www.depressioncenter.org/docc.

Registration is $125 before March 1, and $140 afterward, for non-students. Students may attend for free but must complete a registration form. Groups of five or more non-students registering together will receive a discount of $10 per registration before March 1. Registration includes continental breakfast on both days of the conference, and an afternoon reception on Tuesday, March 18.

Continuing education credits are available for physicians, psychologists, clinical social workers and certified counselors. The conference will also feature the presentation of the annual Student Mental Health Advocate Award, which recognizes outstanding student leadership in the area of campus mental health.

Research shows that the peak period for the onset of a person’s first depression symptoms begin in the early teens and continues through the mid-20s. Of the 19 million Americans who experience depression each year, many develop their first symptoms just before or during college.

John Greden, M.D., executive director of the U-M Depression Center, points out that to counteract long-term consequences of clinical depression, bipolar, and related disorders, “we must diagnose and treat earlier, and this annual conference helps us learn how to do that better.”

Many students arrive at college already diagnosed with depression — as many as 10 percent, according to a 2000 study from the American College Health Association. Many others who have depression arrive at college without having been diagnosed.

Symptoms of depression include: sadness; anxiety; decreased energy or fatigue; loss of interest or pleasure in usual activities; sleep disturbances; appetite and weight changes; feelings of hopelessness, guilt, and worthlessness; thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts; difficulty concentrating, making decisions, or remembering; irritability or excessive crying; and chronic aches and pains not explained by another physical condition.

For all students with depression, the illness often leads to poor academic performance, alcohol and drug abuse, problems with relationships, and greater risk for other health problems.

The 2008 Depression on College Campuses conference is made possible by the generous support of individual donors, including Katherine and Tom Goldberg of Bloomfield Hills, Mich., and two donations made in memory of Nancy Corinne Lombardi, by Dennis and Julie McCrary of Wilmette, Ill., and Patrick J. Wilkie of Charlottesville, VA.

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention has also provided support for the conference, as have many areas of the University of Michigan, including the Medical School, the U-M Hospitals and Health Centers, the College of Engineering, the Horace H. Rackham School of Graduate Studies, the Office of the Provost, the School of Public Health, the School of Social Work, the University Health Service, the Office of the Vice President of Student Affairs, the A. Alfred Taubman College of Architecture + Urban Planning, the School of Nursing, the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, the School of Information, the School of Music, Theatre & Dance and the School of Natural Resources and Environment.

For more about the U-M Depression Center, to read about all forms of depression and its treatment, or to take a free anonymous online screening test for depression, visit www.depressioncenter.org.

Written by: Kara Gavin

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