The UTRGV Counseling Center will provide free screenings in the student unions on both the Brownsville and Edinburg campuses in observance of Mental Health Awareness Week.
“[It] is an opportunity for students to learn about depression and possibly get assessed for [depression] and get the treatment they need,” said Christopher Albert, a clinical psychologist and director of the Counseling Center.
Counseling Specialist Maria Alejandra Mazariegos is in charge of the depression screenings on the Brownsville campus.
“This is an event that’s held annually at UTRGV and it’s part of Mental Health Awareness Week,” Mazariegos said. “It’s usually done in October, and it really is an effort to reach students across campus and let them know about the importance of mental health and connect with them with our services, in the event that they would need them.”
Mental Health Awareness Week is an annual observance that began in 1990.
Mazariegos detailed the difficulties college students face.
“College students are clearly adapting from high school coming into college,” she said. “Obviously, with that change comes a lot of positive stuff, but also is more responsibility. It’s a different schedule, it’s more socialization, the world kind of opens. … So, we do see a good deal of students who may be feeling overwhelmed, have certain symptoms that may guide towards depression.”
Mazariegos wants students to know that depression is a serious issue.
“Depression is currently, it’s the leading cause of disability in the U.S. for people ages 15 to 44. It affects a lot of people, over 60 million adults,” she said.
Asked about his views, computer science sophomore Jesus Reyes replied, “I feel like some people may be vulnerable when they go to these depression screenings. While I like idea of these screenings, they need to be careful about how they go about doing these, because depression is a serious issue.”
Andrew Perez is a counseling specialist on the Edinburg campus and has worked in this position for four years. Perez has been working on his doctorate in rehabilitation counseling for three years. He is in charge of the depression screenings.
“We’re screening students for depression,” Perez said. “Basically, there’s a few questions. It’s very brief, and we can score it very quickly and tell students whether they fall into a mild, moderate or severe range of depression symptoms.”
He emphasized that getting screened does not equate an official depression diagnosis and spoke about the precautions made to ensure the well-being of students who seem to need special attention.
“Usually every year we’ll get a handful of students who start [counseling] services that day, because of concerns [about their well-being],” Perez said.
Addie Weiland, a counseling specialist on the Edinburg campus said there is a stigma with mental health.
“A lot of people can be ashamed of it if they feel like they’re struggling with any sort of mental health like depression or anxiety,” Weiland said.
She said the purpose of Mental Health Awareness Week is to help destigmatize these issues.
“Similar to how you would go to a doctor, to get a physical health checkup, to make sure that your heart’s OK, that everything’s OK, mental health goes hand in hand in that,” she said.
Weiland said these checkups and screenings are important to see where you are in your mental health, and to know about the resources available to students.
The depression screenings will take place from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. today on the Edinburg campus and from 1 to 3 p.m. Thursday on the Brownsville campus.
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