Destigmatizing Depression

Photo Illustration by Sara Novenstern/Castleton Spartan

There’s a stigma surrounding anxiety and depression, but it turns out it’s much more common than you might think, especially among college students.

In fact, 60 percent of Castleton students say they have experienced overwhelming anxiety in the past year, and over one-third say at some point they have felt so depressed that it was difficult to function.

These numbers are from the National College Health Assessment administered at Castleton this spring. This survey also reported that just over half of the students at Castleton have received help from a counselor or psychologist.

But for the employees in the Wellness Center, these numbers aren’t so much concerning as they are encouraging.

“We’re trying to reduce the stigma,” said Jamie Bentley, coordinator of campus wellness education. “And we see it in our statistics at Castleton that more and more students are feeling comfortable coming to the Wellness Center for counseling or for education and information.” The Wellness Center is actively trying to spread information and resources to students on how to reduce stress. Being able to manage stress in a healthy way makes students much less likely to suffer from anxiety or depression.

They give students the knowledge and resources they need to help themselves, but also what they need to help out friends.

“We’re trying to get the whole campus learning how to be good listeners, how to listen without judging, how to provide support,” said Martha Coulter, director of the Wellness Center.

She and two other postgraduate interns are available for counseling to every Castleton student free of charge.

Another resource available to students is the Student Support Network.

The goal of the program is to expand the support network on campus, giving members of the Castleton community more people they can go to for help and more people they know are looking out for them.

Student Support Network trains its members to be empathetic listeners, how to recognize warning signs and how to connect students with the help they need.

So far, the group has trained 55 students and is training 27 more this semester, Coulter said.

Castleton senior Colleen Jenkins is part of the Student Support Network, and if anyone has experience coping with stress it’s her. Jenkins is an athletic training major currently working with the men’s soccer and men’s basketball teams. She attends every practice and every game.

She’s the president of the athletic training club and a student orientation staff leader.  

She has a work-study position at the Fine Arts Center and works with the Academic Support Center as a tutor.

On top of that, Jenkins is studying for her board certification to become a certified athletic trainer.

Even with all these responsibilities, Jenkins has developed her own strategies to manage stress and now helps others do the same through the Network.

“I joined because I thought it would be beneficial and helpful when dealing with my athletes as well as first-year students with SOS,” Jenkins said. “I use a lot of what I learned in both settings.”

Jenkins agrees that experiencing anxiety or depression is nothing to be ashamed of.

“I think everyone goes through a lot in college. Some have more of a tough time than others,” she said. “You just have to find a way to make yourself better and surround yourself with people that make you happy.”

The Wellness Center will be holding an anxiety and depression screening day on Nov. 18 from 12:30-2 p.m. in the Campus Center, open to all members of the college community.

One tip from Coulter on the best way stay healthy and happy is to balance your life. For Bentley, it’s connecting to the community and the people in it.  


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