Because depression is so widespread throughout many communities, it is not highlighted as an illness or medical issue. In reality, it is on the same scale as Diabetes, Asthma, or any chronic mental illness.
Here at Alcorn State University (ASU), the awareness of mental illness has always been promoted, but beginning in 2016, a stronger initiative was taken by the Career and Counseling staff. They realized that being at a college institution is putting them in the most convenient place to help adolescents and young adults with their mental state before sending them out into the working world. After graduating high school, some see that departure as being thrown to the wolves of the world when in actuality a student still has that 2 to 6 year window in college to be under some type of educational and administrative rule. Informing students and others about the real definition and effects of depression has been the counselor’s main goal.
The definition of depression is having feelings of severe despondency and dejection. This can also be defined as low spirit and low initiative to complete tasks due to a loss of hope or courage. The week of October 8th is National Mental Illness/Depression Awareness Week and Alcorn hosted various events to educate the students. Dr. Barbara Warner-Martin, Director of Counseling Services, has been a driving force in Alcorn’s promotion of this illness and wants to better the student body by allowing to have an open line of communication with her and the staff. Warner-Martin stated, “Our main two goals are to promote and enhance the awareness and understanding of ASU’s family umbrella and to promote awareness around depression because it is in the top five health problems in the nation.”
During this week, different screenings, interviews, and presentations were done to emphasize how the student body can attack mental illness. For those who wanted to participate, the staff provided standardized and structured ways of identifying depression. If one chooses to further the process, an interview will be held between the student and a counselor to discuss any issues, concerns about their life, state of mind, and further conversation about the student’s general well-being. When the counselors see that more work needs to be done, a professional will be welcomed in for more instruction and guidance. An important aspect of the dialogue held between the administrators and students to Dr. Warner-Martin is their “want for others to know if they’ve had problems, we want to normalize them in order to make them more comfortable.”
Other things that were highlighted during the week because they are connected to depression and can lead to it are domestic violence and drunk driving. The Safe Holiday Campaign shines a light on no drinking and driving. It also emphasizes to not get in the vehicle with anyone who seems to be under the influence of anything, especially during the holidays. Domestic violence is also strongly promoted because it is one of the highest ranked occurrences on a college campus. At one of the screenings, a student activist, Ricky Maltbia, stated about comradery and its use to stave off depression by stating, “Negativity is going to be anywhere in our lives, but in college, it helps to be involved in organizations that fit your liking. I’m a member of Kappa Kappa Psi and I play cymbals in the Sounds of Dyn-O-Mite Marching Band. Being a part of those two organizations has taught me more self-discipline and has placed people in my life that are now my role models who have shown me how to handle situations that are thrown at me instead of becoming discouraged.”
When it comes to mental illness, Alcorn’s goal for the students is to find their voice and reclaim it. Placing awareness on the topics are vital because the students will know the do’s and don’ts as they mature. If someone is depressed or mentally ill, there is a psychological problem that prevents them from living their life to its fullest potential. The Counseling staff takes their knowledge and the tools of the students to create an atmosphere of open communication and free speech to reach everyone and encourage them to express how they feel because there could be someone going through the same trials who is not ready to open up yet.
For more information on mental illness contact the Career and Counseling Services office at (601) 877-6230. Also, if you would like to get in contact or set up a meeting with one of the counselors, email Dr. Warner-Martin at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.