Unchecked, depression in students can lead to difficulty concentrating on their studies, failing courses, withdrawing from school, or worse. What’s more, many students avoid seeking professional help due to the stigma associated with mental illness. In an effort to reverse this trend, the Vanier College Counselling Center held its 10th annual Depression Screening Day on October 19th, 2010.

“The aim of the event is three-fold,” explains Markham Mirotchnick, a counsellor at the Vanier Counselling Center. He continues that “we are trying to create awareness about the prevalence of mental illness in our society, to de-stigmatize the view of those who seek professional help, and to inform students about the range of services available to with mental health, namely the counsellors at the Center.”

This year, counsellors met with over 140 students to discuss the results of a self-administered depression/anxiety screening questionnaire, while several hundred more came for information on mental health topics.

As part of their course component on Mental Health, students in their final year of the Special Care Counselling Program also help the Counselling staff by distributing the questionnaire throughout the College, speaking with students about depression, anxiety, and stress, and encouraging them to meet with one of the counsellors. “No one ever thinks, ‘I’m depressed’” said one SCC student, “but until you have all the information you never know. You might also be anxious, stressed, or even just nervous.”

As to the impact of this year’s Depression Screening Day, Markham Mirotchnick concludes that “this event is one of the most important outreach activities for mental illness. We saw hundreds of students who would very likely not have sought help or information otherwise.”

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