By Amanda Joerndt
A free screening to detect depression symptoms will be held at the Jewish Community Center of Youngstown on Oct. 10 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Five students from Youngstown State University’s clinical mental health counseling graduate program in the Beeghly College of Education will partner with Jewish Family Services to offer free depression screenings to students and community members during National Mental Health Awareness Week, which goes from Oct. 6 to Oct.12.
Jewish Family Services and the Help Network of Northeast Ohio will be present to offer resources for students and Youngstown residents seeking different counseling services.
Ken Bielecki, executive director of Jewish Family Services, said the screenings are used to detect depression symptoms among individuals and guide them in the right direction for help.
“People can come out and hopefully talk to one of the students who is going to use one of our screening tools for depression,” Bielecki said. “Those symptoms can be masked, so it’s very important to get the screenings to see if there’s some symptoms of depression and get the right help.”
In Bielecki’s opinion, even if one or two residents participate in the screenings, the event will be considered a success.
“If they can identify they have depression, we’re going to be thrilled with that result,” he said. “We do hope to get a larger-scaled crowd, but if it’s small this year, we can just move forward with next year, which is fine.”
Ann Jaronski, director of Student Counseling Services at YSU, said counseling services has worked hard to decrease the stigma that surrounds mental health.
“We’re seeing that our efforts are paying off, and we’re having phenomenal numbers of students coming in and seeking services,” she said.
According to Jaronski, 304 students visited YSU’s counseling services in the 2017-2018 academic year versus 359 students visiting it in the 2018-2019 school year.
She said anxiety and depression are the top two reasons why students use the counseling center.
In 2017-2018, 14% of visitors to the center were seeking help with depression symptoms, while 44% visited for anxiety issues. For the 2018-2019 school year, 17.8% of visitors came in for depression and 32.8% for anxiety.
“More students these days are willing to say, ‘I need some assistance and some services,’ and to seek those out, which is all awesome,” Jaronski said.
Jake Protivnak, professor and department chair of counseling, school psychology and educationonal leadership in the Beeghly College of Education, said he hopes the graduate students volunteering at the screenings bring back real-world experiences to their classroom studies.
“Practical, hands-on experiences with individuals in the community really enforces the information and stuff they learn in the class,” he said. “Being able to go out into the community and provide some skills they’re learning in class will highlight their learning and make it come alive.”
Protivnak said although the event is a great opportunity for the students, being able to provide services during Mental Health Awareness Week is an additional bonus.
“It’s a wonderful day for the counseling students to participate in that type of volunteering,” Protivnak said.
Taylor Barton, a first-year graduate student in the clinical mental health counseling program, dedicated her time volunteering at the depression screenings.
Barton said being able to volunteer at a local depression screening can be a valuable learning experience for future work in her field.
“It will also give me the opportunity to engage in a new experience that I can pull from in my future interactions with clients,” Barton said. “It will also provide me with an experience that I can discuss with my classmates, which could be helpful to them.”
In Barton’s opinion, the screenings can help individuals who participate find validation with their challenges and move forward to seek help.
“I think the really important piece of this is that some individuals might be struggling, and having this interaction in which they get screened could provide validation that their struggles and experiences are real and impactful, which could encourage them to reach out and seek help,” she said.
The JCC is located at 505 Gypsy Lane in Youngstown.
An informational board is placed in the Beeghly College of Education fourth floor to educate students on the importance of different counseling services. Photo by Brian Yauger/ The Jambar