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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

UF observed National Depression Screening Day early this year, as students received free screenings Thursday in recognition of Mental Illness Awareness Week.

Student Mental Health Services and the UF Counseling Center organized the screenings, which were held in front of the Student Health Care Center from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Students completed brief questionnaires about depression, anxiety and related mood problems.

After filling out the questionnaires, participants talked one-on-one with mental health providers who scored their questionnaire.

Based on their answers, students were given advice about how they could reduce stress or seek further counseling.

"We hope the one-on-one interview will address the needs of some students or reassure them the stress they are feeling is normal under the circumstances," said UF psychologist Julie Abrams.

Simara Ayala, a third-year family, youth & community sciences major, said she heard about the screening through a friend and thought it would be interesting to participate.

"The counselor said stress can lead to physical pain, and I should participate in more social activities and cardiovascular exercises for relief," she said.

Participants were given free pizza and brochures about depression and anxiety. They were also entered in a drawing for a free back massage.

The questionnaires were anonymous but asked students for basic demographic information for summary purposes. The counselors will use the information to analyze what types of symptoms the majority of UF students experience, Abrams said.

Depression and anxiety among college students can be attributed to many things, including stressful incidents, the loss of a loved one or family history, she said.

"Everybody has days when they are feeling down," Abrams said.

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She advises students to modify their study skills, time management and caffeine intake to treat mild anxiety. They should review their thinking patterns, options and decision-making.

"Sometimes it is just as simple as being assertive and being able to say no," she said. "You don't have to take on everything."

Students who missed the screenings can take one at Shands at UF on the actual National Depression Screening Day Oct. 11.

Students feeling depressed can receive personal, confidential help from counselors at both the UF Counseling Center and Student Mental Health Services.

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