As college students, we are constantly reminded to be aware of our mental health. Due to the stressful school environment we face each day, we, as students, are encouraged to seek out help when we need it. On Boston University’s campus alone, there are various student-run and administrative groups
that specialize in alleviating the strain of mental illness. Active Minds, a widely-acclaimed student organization, works to eradicate the stigma surrounding mental illness and promote talking about disorders, such as depression, in a positive light. Similarly, BU Student Health Services offers one free counseling session, then references students to psychologists in Boston. As many people struggling with mental illness will attest, however, seeking out care while struggling to show any self-care is like walking to the hospital with a broken leg — discouraging and painful.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommended that everyone between the ages of 11 and 21 should be screened for depression every year. Like going to the doctor for a physical, getting screened for depression is easy, costless and not time consuming — the test takes about 15 minutes on a computer asking relative questions about day-to-day happiness and feeling.
The consequence of everyone between 11 and 21 being screened every year for depression would start a trickle-down effect. First, by just getting tested, people are validating the significance of mental illness in modern society and no longer just deeming depression as an outlining disorder. If acceptance of mental illness became more common, people suffering perhaps would not be as reluctant to find help. By screening for depression, people without mental illness are giving those with it a path to treatment. They are giving a crutch to a person with a broken leg.
According to an article by Refinery29, “one in 10 people in the [United States] will have depression at some point in their lifetime,” and yet there is still such a negative association with saying, “I have depression,” “I have anxiety” or any of the like. “I have depression,” turns into “I’m unreliable and a bummer.” “I have anxiety,” turns into “I’m high-maintenance and crazy.”
And though this counterargument gets made time and time again, I shall restate. If someone had the flu, they would not be ostracized for it. Someone who suffers from mental illness should not either. Physical and mental health are equitable, and if getting screened for depression was as common as getting screened for a physical disability, mental illness, for those who had it, would be made to feel less alone.
Getting screened for depression will help a lot of people come to terms with mental illness that might have gone unchecked. Even for those that do not have any mental illness problems, getting screened will make it easier to talk about and acknowledge those feelings should they ever arise.
It has been argued that screening teens for depression every year is dangerous because it is so hard to diagnose mental illness, and may lead to unnecessary antidepressant prescriptions in children and young adults. These critics, however, forget that there are many steps between being diagnosed and finding the right medication. Depression and mental illness are never quick fixes, and medication comes much later down the line after counseling, therapy, psychologist meetings and referral.
If anything, getting screened is not even about getting medicated. It is about introducing mental illness as an active part of life.
Please get screened for depression. Even if you do not think you have it, you know someone who has it. Make it easier for them to find the help they need by asking for help yourself first. If you do have mental illness, know you are not alone. You do not have to walk on your broken leg anymore.