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Bag lunch event promotes depression awareness, resources

Meaghan Daly | Monday, September 17, 2012

Saint Mary’s Student Government Associate (SGA) closed the week of Support a Belle, Love a Belle with an informational panel on Friday afternoon in the SGA office.

“We wanted to do a professional panel, especially for [first years] and other students to figure out resources and where you can go for help,” student body president Maureen Parsons said.

The panel featured four staff members who are available to students as free, confidential resources.

The goal for Support a Belle, Love a Belle was to raise awareness about depression and anxiety and to show support for students afflicted with these issues. This is the second year SGA has hosted the week-long event.

“Overall, the week went well and was well received by the student body,” SGA vice president of external affairs and junior Kathleen Sullivan said. “Support a Belle, Love a Belle touches on sensitive topics, but it was an important and necessary week. We encouraged students to be open about their struggles and to be advocates for past, present and future Belles.”

The panel emphasized the resources and staff available to the Saint Mary’s community and discussed ways students can help their friends who are suffering from depression or anxiety.

“A very basic way [to help] is to give someone eye contact,” Gina Christiana, a counselor in the Women’s Health Office, said. “It is a common courtesy. It is a matter of caring and treating people as individuals that matter.”

The panel advised students to notice common signs of depression in their friends, such as avoiding eye contact, irritability and difficulty sleeping.

If a student sees some of these symptoms in a friend, Christiana said she should encourage her to seek help and offer to accompany her to a campus resource.

“You cannot force something on somebody, but you can encourage them,” she said.

Catherine Pittman, associate professor of psychology, said persuading friends to seek help could keep the problem from affecting others around them as well.

“We all go through hard times,” she said. “Show them you think it is normal to feel anxious because all college students do.”

Depression can affect one’s ability to learn, concentrate and memory, Pittman said. If counseling is too overwhelming, she said to suggest taking a walk.

“Exercise and brisk walking makes part of your brain think you got away,” she said. “It calms you down.”

Regina Wilson, assistant director of Campus Ministry, said it often helps to formulate a spiritual practice. Weekly mass attendance can make a difference, as it allows one to entrust their prayers in God, she said.

On-campus resources for students suffering from depression include the Women’s Health Office, Campus Ministry and the Belles Against Violence Office.