Depression may not be widely acknowledge at Georgetown, but it is widely felt, according to a presentation given Friday by Tyler White (COL ’14) on the results of his semester-long research project studying depression in college students.
White said the number of Georgetown students suffering from the disorder is on par with national statistics on young adult mental health.
“Essentially, it reiterated the message that Georgetown is like every other college campus across the country, and kids struggle with depression here, just like anywhere else,” White said.
White, a psychology major, designed and conducted the research project in coordination with JenniferWoolard’s “Research Methods and Statistics” class, along with classmates Betsy Helmer (COL ’13), Kayla McNeill (COL ’13), Joanna Orlando (COL ’14) and Olympia Filippeli (COL ’14).
The classmates distributed the Center for Epidemiological Studies’ Depression Scale, a 20-question population screening tool, in a number of introductory science and ethics courses at Georgetown. They received 387 student responses but were unable to release the exact statistical outcomes of the survey because of Institutional Review Board policy.
White, who hopes to pursue a profession in clinical psychology, was interested in studying mental health at Georgetown because of the particular tendency for college students to be affected by mental health difficulties.
“If you look at journal articles, almost one in four people between the ages of 18 and 25 will have a major depressive episode,” he said. “There are a lot of things that affect college students, and I think we all feel the ups and downs of college life.”
While about one in four students visits Georgetown’s Counseling and Psychiatric Service during his academic career — echoing the journal data White cited — attendees of the presentation agreed that student awareness and dialogue about mental health issues should be increased.
Andrew Kanouse (NHS ’14), who attended White’s presentation, said the statistics were ones that students needed to hear.
“I loved the cura personalis aspect Tyler brought into the point because that’s a side I’d never considered but is completely right. As Georgetown students, we have a duty to care for the whole person, particularly our minds,” Kanouse said.
At his presentation, White advocated extending training for Safety Net, a group of faculty that has agreed to reach out to any students they believe to be suffering from mental health issues, to include all professors on campus.
Director of Health Education Services Carol Day, who is familiar with White’s research, agreed that an expansion of the Safety Net program could be beneficial for students but questioned the feasibility of the idea.
“I think it’d be a great idea, but logistically, it’d be very hard,” Day said. “To do it at the scale that it would be beneficial and helpful, it would require another staff person whose primary job would be to pull that together.”
White hopes that his research will contribute to an open dialogue surrounding the topic of mental health in college.
“I think raising awareness is tremendously important in combating stigma and encouraging people to seek help earlier, rather than later,” White said.