UCLA already offers comprehensive lifestyle services and programs for new students — and now, they’re adding depression-specific screening to that mix.
There are lots of things you expect when you attend orientation as a new college student: being told where things are, what to expect, how the logistics of campus life operate. But what if students were also shown how to monitor their own psyche for signs of encroaching depression and anxiety? UCLA is betting that that’s a valuable screening service, and they’re rolling out a new program aimed squarely at helping incoming freshmen recognize the signs and symptoms of depression-related disorders.
It’s an ambitious undertaking, one that involves one-on-one time with students and dynamic counseling. In fact, based on all available information, it appears that there has never been a comparable program to this one in terms of size and scope. Perhaps that’s because, as a society, we’re still only just beginning to understand the sociological — and even economic — impact of depression-related disorders (which includes anxiety, suicidal ideation, and mania). There has long been a stigma around mental health in America, and it’s only through programs such as the one UCLA is debuting that we can begin to tear down those walls.
Anyone who’s lived through the experience of starting a new life at a new college knows the tremendous paradigm shift involved in establishing yourself there. Anecdotally, all college-educated people understand that there are elements of college life that can be overwhelming, scary, pressure-filled, and stressful. However, many of us might have been lucky enough to weather these stresses without having to simultaneously battle a burgeoning mental health disorder such as depression. When you combine an individual predisposed to a depression disorder and place them in the pressure cooker of freshman life in college, the results can be disastrous.
Sociologists believe that early-college age (18-20) is a particularly critical time in the life of a young adult. It’s where they establish their “trajectory” — not only in terms of their career path and work ethic, but also in terms of the way they navigate through the world and learn how to cope with stressors. If students don’t establish good habits early on in terms of monitoring and caring for their mental health, it can become incredibly hard to set the ship right later in life. It’s admirable that UCLA has committed to taking this proactive step toward educating their new students in this area, proving that a world-class institution of learning should also be focused on preparing their students for the real world.