Conference focuses on depression on college campuses


Third annual meeting looks at stigma, effective interventions

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- College-age young adults are one of the highest-risk groups for developing depression, both because of their age and the many stresses they face. But while many colleges have recently increased their efforts to help depressed students, experts estimate that a majority of such students never even seek help.

The reason: a general stigma about mental health that forms an invisible barrier between college students and effective diagnosis and treatment of their depression.

This stigma, and efforts to fight it, will form the main focus of a two-day conference at the University of Michigan. On March 22 and 23, hundreds of students, educators, administrators, mental health professionals and researchers will gather in Ann Arbor for the third annual Depression on College Campuses Conference, co-sponsored by the U-M Depression Center and the U-M's Rackham School of Graduate Studies.

The conference, titled "Fighting Stigma with Knowledge and Understanding," will tackle some of the chief issues that get in the way of successful depression detection, diagnosis and treatment.

"Failure to spot depression in its earliest stages can set a young person on a course for a lifelong struggle that almost certainly gets harder to treat as time passes," says John Greden, M.D., executive director of the U-M Depression Center and chair of the Department of Psychiatry at the U-M Medical School. "We must address stigma, in all its forms, if we are to truly address the issue of depression and bipolar disorder in young adults."

The conference will feature talks by prominent researchers and leaders in the field of depression -- as well as from student mental health advocates and people who have dealt with depression and bipolar disorder in themselves or with a family member.

For more information on the conference, call 734-615-4474, send e-mail to [email protected] or visit A registration form is available online. The conference is free for students with current student identification, and to physicians in training. The cost for all others is $85 before March 1 and $100 after March 1 or at the door. Lunch on March 22 is available at a cost of $15 per person.

Topics of lectures and breakout sessions will include:

  • The special issue of the stigma associated with mental health and depression treatment among certain racial and ethnic groups.
  • Policy-level efforts to reduce stigma, and the need for further policy changes
  • The role of athletes as effective spokespersons to reduce depression stigma. Former Detroit Lions quarterback Eric Hipple, who lost his 15-year-old son to suicide, will speak about his efforts to spread awareness about depression through public speaking. Former University of Maryland basketball player Alli Spence and ESPN The Magazine's Eric Adelson will discuss how athletes can de-stigmatize and de-mystify depression.
  • Efforts by students to help other students recognize depression and get help.
  • The use of alcohol as self-medication for depression symptoms.

    Speakers at the conference will include Paolo del Vecchio, MSW, the associate director for consumer affairs at the Center for Mental Health Services, part of the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. In that role, del Vecchio spearheads SAMHSA's efforts to reduce stigma and discrimination surrounding mental health issues.

    The controversy over teenagers, antidepressant medications and suicide risk will also be addressed in a featured talk by Benedetto Vitello, M.D., chief of the Child and Adolescent Treatment and Preventive Intervention Research Branch at the National Institute of Mental Health. He'll discuss recent research He'll discuss recent research that finds the most effective treatment for teens with depression is a combination of antidepressant medications and talk therapy.

    Also on the schedule is science journalist Paul Raeburn, author of "Acquainted with the Darkness: A Parent's Quest to Understand Depression and Bipolar Disorder in His Children," published by Broadway Books in 2004. He will give a talk to the entire conference, and will also be part of a breakout session led by Rachel Glick, M.D., a U-M professor of psychiatry who was recently named co-chair of the American Psychiatric Association's Task Force on Mental Health on College Campuses.

    And Stephanie Pinder-Amaker, Ph.D., associate dean of students at U-M, will discuss the University's efforts to reduce depression's stigma among young men on its campus via the first-ever college-level use of the "Real Men, Real Depression" awareness campaign designed by the National Institutes of Health.

    The conference will also feature a "networking" session for students who wish to learn more about mental health advocacy efforts on various college campuses. The past two Depression on College Campuses conferences have attracted students from a number of colleges and universities across the country.

    Source: Eurekalert & others

    Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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