Getting Help for Depression
This project is a requirement of the GOA Abnormal Psychology Course. Using the process of design thinking, a challenge in the world of mental health was identified, interviews and research were undertaken, and a solution prototype was developed. Below you will find information about the identified area of concern and my proposed solution. Please feel free to provide feedback on this prototype, using questions such as “How might we…”, “What if….?”, “I wonder….”, “I like…”, and “I wish.” Keep the comments positive, please. For more information on the process of Design Thinking, click here.
BACKGROUND: In our Abnormal Psychology class we learned that two-thirds of all people with mental disorders do not seek treatment for their condition. I wanted to unpack why people don’t seek treatment and what we can do to encourage them to do so. I chose to focus on Depression because it is one of the most common mental illnesses in American society, and suicide (due to depression) is one of the leading causes of deaths in young adults. I also personally suffered from depression, and have experienced both avoiding getting help for two years and later seeing a psychologist, which I think really turned my mental health around.
THE CHALLENGE: Audience: My project focuses on Americans aged 18-22 (typical college age) because this group is most at risk for depression and suicide. The statistics surrounding depression suggests the significance of this issue that cannot be ignored. Additionally, because so many people are not reporting their mental health issues, the true numbers of how many people suffer from depression are probably much higher.
|Why aren’t people getting help? One of the core competencies of Abnormal Psychology is learning how to act with empathy towards others. In order to be empathetic, I needed to figure out why people weren’t getting help before trying to offer solutions. Empathy is about listening to someone’s needs and trying to understand the motivations behind their actions.|
Interview with Dr. Jenniffer Kapp
I interviewed Dr. Jenniffer Kapp, a psychologist and counselor at St. Pius X High School, to learn more about mental health in schools. I chose to interview a high school counselor because she deals with adolescents and young adults (a group my project is focused on). I’ve bolded the most important takeaways for my research.
Me: What inspired you to study Psychology and Counseling in school?
Kapp: I went into college knowing I wanted to work in the psychology field because I liked working with people and helping them. I thought I wanted to be a psychiatrist because they make the most money, haha. Once I started learning about the different careers I changed my mind.
Me: What is challenging about working with adolescents? What is challenging about working in a school?
Kapp: One of the toughest things is helping adolescents see the bigger picture sometimes, as well as, adolescents not thinking things will happen to them. Adolescents developmentally struggle with these types if things. I enjoy working in a school environment. I guess a challenge might be students not coming in because they do not want to get upset during the school day.
Me: Why do you think so many people don’t seek out professional help for mental health issues?
Kapp: Mental health is an abstract idea so humans have a difficult time understand how to handle it. People are able to accept getting help with things they can rationalize to be something they need help with. I also believe societal impressions take a long time to change.
Me: What would you recommend to adolescents struggling with their mental health who are unable to get professional counseling, either because they cannot afford it or their parents don’t want them to?
Kapp: I would help them figure out what resources they have access to either financially or otherwise so they can try to work with what they can. There would also be other issues to address in regards to parents not wanting them to receive counseling so that would be helpful to discuss.
Me: What warning signs should students look out for in themselves and their friends that might indicate a serious mental health issue?
Kapp: I think a general rule would be when something starts to interfere with their everyday life and preventing them from doing everyday things.
Me: When is professional health or medication necessary (vs. general coping strategies and online resources)?
Kapp: I think those things are necessary when coping strategies etc. are not working.
Me: How are mental health issues different for students and teenagers vs. adults?
Kapp: Developmentally mental health issues present differently in teenagers and adults and there are different problems in different ages as well. For example, depression can look like anger in a teenager and sadness in an adult.
Me: Is it better to catch issues early on rather than when you are an adult?
Kapp: Absolutely, because people can work on healthy coping mechanisms as well as healthy thinking rather than the possibility of developing bad habits or poor self thoughts and talk.
I also did some research to supplement what I learned from Dr. Kapp. In my own personal experience, I did not want to seek treatment because I didn’t want people to think I was strange. Even our course title, “Abnormal Psychology” sort of evokes the idea that having depression or some sort of mental health issue is “abnormal.” A study by NPR confirmed my suspicions, saying that fear of stigma is the main reason people don’t come forward with their mental health issues. Jagannath Lamichhan, a mental health advocate in Nepal who has personally overcome depression, says “if we hide our mental health, it may remain a problem forever.” Access Science lists cost as another obstacle for seeking treatment.
- Cost of psychological disorders ranges from 2-3% of a country’s GNP
- In low-income countries, 90% of people with common mental illnesses will not get treatment
- A visit to a therapist can cost an average of $75-$150 per session
One final reason people may not be getting help for their mental health is an inability to recognize their disorders due to a lack of information.
THE SOLUTION: Through my interview, research, and personal experience, I can sum up the obstacles to these three:
- Fear of Stigma
- Inability to Recognize Disorders/ Lack of information
I created a flow chart to help people troubleshoot common problems to solutions, and it caters both towards people suffering from mental illness and people who suspect a friend or peer might be.
WHAT’S NEXT? I am hoping to turn my flowchart into a poster and put it up at my high school, and possibly hold a seminar in our counseling office for high school seniors (right on the cusp of my target age range 18-22) to talk about how to get help for mental health if you need it and why there’s nothing wrong with struggling with mental illness. I’d love feedback from my audience, GOA style, in terms of “What if..” “How might we…” “I wonder…” so I can learn how I can improve my presentation to be more impactful. The three goals for my project are:
- Encourage people to get help for mental health
- Direct them towards appropriate resources (3 C’s: cost effective, confidential, convenient)
- Decrease the stigma around having a mental illness and getting treatment for it
Additionally, if you are around my target age group (18-22) I’d really love feedback about whether you learned anything from this, what more you wish I had covered, and how I could present this in a face-to-face setting that would impact you the most.
Images: “This is What Depression Looks Like” Photo: http://www.granthalliburton.org/images/knowthesigns.pdf Depression Warning Signs: https://forum.schizophrenia.com/t/the-warning-signs-depression/39491
Fernando, Gaithri A. “Mental Disorders.” Access Science, California State University, 2016. Access Science. Accessed 13 Apr. 2018.
“Help Someone Else: Lifeline.” Suicide Prevention Lifeline, suicidepreventionlifeline.org/help-someone-else/. Accessed 13 Apr. 2018.
Kapp, Jenniffer, Dr. Telephone interview. 6 Feb. 2018.
Rocheleau, Matt. “Suicide Rate at MIT Higher than National Average.” The Boston Globe, 17 Mar. 2015, Boston Globe. Accessed 13 Apr. 2018.
Singh, Maanvi. “Study: Vast Majority of People Who Are Depressed Do Not Seek Help.” NPR, 2 Dec. 2016, NPR. Accessed 13 Apr. 2018.