Story by Liza Porter
Photo by Gabi Pina
“Depression can be like gravity pulling you to yourself,” says Teresiana Zurita at her desk in the PCC West Campus Counseling Center. “It’s not necessarily negative.”
It’s a quiet Tuesday morning in the first floor Student Services Center. Zurita, counseling coordinator for West Campus, says getting help for depression can be a way to discover a “more authentic life.”
Most students come for counseling at PCC because they’re not doing well academically, not because they think they’re depressed. “They’re struggling with classes,” Zurita says.
But sometimes when she sits down to talk with a student, she realizes academics are not the only problem.
“The academic issues are really a result of the emotions that are going on, that the student feels out of control of,” Zurita says.
That’s when she might start suspecting depression. It could be a matter of helping students take steps to take better care of themselves. Eating more healthily. Getting enough sleep. Managing their time.
There are also PCC courses students can take.
“We have STU courses, Student Success courses,” Zurita says. “One is called Stress Management and Wellness.”
Another is Making Career Choices. The STU courses are listed in the schedule of classes on the PCC Web site.
Many of the courses incorporate a psychological component. Students discuss their motivations, how their feelings impact their ability to achieve goals.
Counselors are trained to recognize if a student’s problems are more serious than self-care or goal-setting.
Though they don’t have the resources to help someone who is seriously depressed and perhaps suicidal, the counselors use a model called “stabilize and refer.”
They will take action if they suspect a student is planning to harm himself. “We will definitely get them connected with mental health agencies in the community,” Zurita says.
Since counseling can be expensive, there are several resources that allow payment on a sliding scale. One is SAMHC Behavioral Health Center (see box for information).
It can be scary to ask for help once, and sometimes the second time is even harder. Zurita hopes to help students feel safer making the new connection by helping them with the call.
When she refers a student, Zurita will call SAMHC, put them on speaker phone and say “I have a student here I’m really concerned about, what kind of services do you have?”
Zurita knows it can be hard to be a friend to someone who’s depressed. “You may want to talk to a counselor for a session,” she says. “Just to help you know what you can do to help.”
She realizes that mental illness still has a certain stigma in our culture.
“I really want to stress that depression is not a weakness, that it’s treatable,” she says. Sometimes the first place to seek help is with a friend, or a minister or rabbi. It doesn’t always have to be a counselor.
But the Counseling Center is there to help.
If you feel any of these, especially if they get worse over time, it’s time to get help.
1. Been feeling low in energy, slowed down?
2. Been blaming yourself for things?
3. Had poor appetite?
4. Had difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep?
5. Been feeling hopeless about the future?
6. Been feeling blue?
7. Been feeling no interest in things?
8. Had feelings of worthlessness?
9. Thought about or wanted to commit suicide?
10. Had difficulty concentrating or making decisions?
Source: National Depression Screening Day—College Screening Form
by Screening for Mental Health, Inc.
Counseling centers on campus
• Community Campus, 206-6408
• Desert Vista Campus, 206-5030
• Downtown Campus, 206-7260
• East Campus, 206-7662
• Northwest Campus, 206-2200
• West Campus, 206-6699