Pitt, WPIC, Community Leaders Partner to Bring Unique Approach to Alerting Students About Depression

Issue Date: 
November 10, 2008

One out of four college students will experience some form of depression by the age of 24, and nearly half of all college students report feeling so depressed at some point in time that they have trouble functioning, according to national statistics. To call attention to depression’s symptoms and to encourage those experiencing symptoms to seek help, University of Pittsburgh faculty, staff, and students are partnering with the Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic (WPIC) of UPMC and community leaders to promote “Talk to Me,” a network of resources to help students deal with depression.

With funding and guidance provided by WPIC and Pitt faculty, staff, and student volunteers—including mental health peer educators from the University Counseling Center—“Talk to Me” uses creative ways to draw attention to the on- and off-campus resources for people suffering from depression. The volunteers will be scattered across campus wearing easily identifiable green T-shirts bearing the catchphrase “Talk to Me.” The program began in October and will continue every Tuesday in November. Among the materials that the volunteers have are educational materials about depression awareness, self-assessment, and tips for taking care of your mental health.

The “Talk to Me” network comprises committee members from WPIC and Pitt’s Division of Student Affairs, and community partners from LEAD (Leading Education and Awareness for Depression), the re:solve Crisis Network, and Contact Pittsburgh. The committee’s leadership includes Sheila Fine and Nikki P. Nordenberg, who serve as chair and vice chair, respectively, of LEAD’s board of directors, and Kathy W. Humphrey, Pitt’s vice provost and dean of students.

“Depression is an illness and a very real issue on college campuses,” Humphrey said. “Many students struggle with depression at some point, so we developed the ‘Talk to Me’ campaign to encourage dialogue and let our campus community know that there are resources to help. In addition to our own University Counseling Center, we are grateful to have experts at community organizations such as Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic and LEAD that are willing to partner with the University to provide resources.”

Denise Macerelli, senior director of community and government relations in WPIC and a “Talk to Me” committee member, said, “As part of our ongoing commitment to community mental health awareness and education, WPIC is focusing our efforts on this campaign to ensure that vulnerable college students know that help is available to them.

“Research has shown that rates of mental health-related concerns—including depression, anxiety, suicide, and excessive use of alcohol and drugs—are on the rise across college campuses everywhere. The combination of academic performance and peer and social pressures creates an environment fraught with potential for mental health problems. Understanding what to do, where to go, and knowing that you are not alone can make all the difference. The message is simple and hopeful: Depression can be treated,” Macerelli said.

For more information on the “Talk to Me” awareness campaign, call 412-648-1047 or visit the University Counseling Center, Room 334, the William Pitt Union.