Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

HAWC, CAPS Offer Help for S.A.D. and Anxiety

    Seasonal Affective Disorder is an all-too-common affliction in cities like Seattle. According to Science Daily, cities located at least 30 degrees latitude north or south are likely to be affected by the lack of sunlight in such a way that SAD is quite common.

    Seattle’s latitude is approximately 48 degrees north.

    If not treated, SAD can lead to clinical depression or dysthymia, also known as neurotic depression.

    Due to the outstanding risk of SAD in students, Seattle University offers several avenues for students to explore to seek treatment if they are experiencing symptoms of SAD, as well as student groups dedicated to the prevention of Seasonal Affective Disorder.

    Seattle U’s Health and Wellness Crew (formerly Peer Heath Action Team) helps to prevent and treat SAD through educational seminars, encouraging healthy activities, and working to de-stigmatize mental health treatment and recognition.

    Recently, HAWC put on a depression screening where students had the opportunity to work with HAWC and Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) confidentially to better understand their own mental health status and determine whether their emotions and stress levels were appropriate for college students or whether seeking help from CAPS may be necessary.

    Though the screenings are initially done in open and public areas, the results are kept confidential.

    “We do these screenings publicly in order to de-stigmatize mental health disorders,” said Director of Student Wellness and Health Promotion Ryan Hamachek. “This is something we should be doing as a community. We should be asking ourselves, ‘How am I doing today?’ and really paying attention to that.”

    Working for HAWC is a yearlong volunteer commitment during which students get trained as peer mentors and counselors.

    “We will definitely sit down with students and have meaningful and healthy conversations; however, if the student is really having a hard time, we will direct them to CAPS as CAPS will be able to offer them the kind of help that we can’t,” said Hamachek.

    Student Health and Wellness often works with Housing and Residence Life to put together healthy workshops that equip students with strategies to prevent SAD, such as staying active and getting enough Vitamin D either naturally or through full-spectrum lighting.

    HAWC also puts on the Wellness Challenge, an event designed to encourage students to stay well physically, mentally, and emotionally.

    The Wellness Challenge is a six-week program comprised of teams of four students. Points are earned by making healthy choices, such as eating right, abstaining from alcohol use, or even taking time to relax. Each team receives prizes and attends a celebratory lunch when the challenge is finished.

    “In recent poll results from the National Healthcare Center, approximately 20 percent of students at Seattle U said that anxiety affects their performance at school. Similarly, 12 percent of students polled said that at some point during the last 12 months, depression has impacted their performance in class,” said Hamachek.

    “I think one thing that is helpful for students to remember is that when they are going through something bad, they aren’t the only ones facing hard times,” said Seattle U senior and HAWC member Mark Miller. “I’ve felt that way before, but the best thing you can do is take initiative. Take steps to do something about [how you feel].”

    CAPS is a counseling service that is free to all students on campus.

    According to Maura O’Connor, the Director of the Student Health Center (SHC), students seek counseling from CAPS for concerns ranging from roommate issues, identity and sexuality, relationship issues, to stress and anxiety and depression.

    According to The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, some signs of general anxiety disorder include at least six months of excessive anxiety and worry about a variety of events and situations; feeling wound-up, tense, or restless; easily becoming fatigued or worn-out; and difficulty sleeping.

    “It is important to know that only a qualified professional who also relies on clinical judgment can make an accurate diagnosis,” said O’Connor.

    Signs of major depression include a notably depressed mood on most days, a lack of desire or lack of interest in most daily activities, insomnia or hypersomnia and feelings of worthlessness.

    CAPS is not meant to serve as a long-term center for therapy.

    “CAPS therapists work within a short-term model with the number of sessions based on clinical need as determined by the therapist and the individual student so that we may provide counseling and psychological services to the many students who request them,” O’Connor said.

    The services found at CAPS include individual, group and couple therapy. CAPS works with the Student Health Center (SHC) to prescribe medication for depression and anxiety when needed.

    “Overall I would say the programs and accommodations that Seattle University has for students dealing with depression, anxiety or other mental disorders and learning disabilities are very good,” said an anonymous student. “I really began to see a strong support system that I could trust and rely on to help me.”

    “Individual psychotherapy can enhance general coping skills and enable you to deal more effectively with personal problems and also with the normal challenges of life during college, graduate or professional school,” O’Connor said. “I cannot speak for CAPS, but depression and anxiety can have many underlying causes. I think it is best to determine the cause which can vary from genetics, situational, chemical, hormonal, chronic pain or illness, etc. Sometimes discovering the cause requires intervention from a healthcare provider so I would encourage individuals who are struggling to seek help. Once the cause is understood it is much easier to prevent or avoid.”

    Holly may be reached at [email protected]

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