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Documentary brings awareness of depression on campus

People with depression should not feel ashamed. This is the message of "The View from Here: Depression on College Campuses," a new documentary about U-M faculty and student experiences.

"Depression is a very widespread experience. Literally millions of people suffer from it," says Charles Behling, a lecturer in the psychology department and a clinical psychiatrist. Behling, who himself suffered from depression, is one of the people featured in the documentary. "One objective I had was to try to suggest that there should not be anything stigmatizing about being depressed, and that it is a frequent condition," he says.

The documentary will premiere Oct. 8 as part of the campus-wide Investing in Abilities events.

The need for awareness about depression was the genesis of the documentary. "We want to encourage people to be aware that it is a common health problem, and that it is treatable," says Pat McCune, director of Dialogues on Diversity and the writer, director and producer of the film.

The original idea came from former Provost Nancy Cantor, who felt depression awareness was crucial to people on campus, McCune says. Cantor approached McCune in Feb. 2001 after seeing a previous documentary she did on students with disabilities.

"She asked me to make a documentary that would assist in raising awareness and diminish the stigma and sense of shame," McCune says.

According to Behling, the negative impression surrounding depression is just one of the barriers to treatment.

Investing in Ability Week Sponsors:
Council for Disability Concerns
Office for a Multicultural Community
Center for Research on Learning and Teaching
Dance Marathon
Dialogues on Diversity
Office of the General Counsel
Global Ethnic Literatures Seminar
The Adam Miller Fund
Services for Students with Disabilities
Theatre and Drama Department
Depression Center
Wheelchair Seating Service

Sponsors of Initiative on
Disability Studies events:

Office of the Provost and Executive
Vice-President for Academic Affairs
College of Architecture and Urban Planning
College of Engineering
College of Literature, Science, and the Arts
Medical School
School of Education
School of Public Health
School of Social work
U-M–Flint School of Health Professions
and Studies
The Adam Miller Fund

"In my case I donŐt think I felt ashamed, partly because as a therapist myself I had some earlier professional experience. For me it was difficult to admit I was depressed," he says. "I think part of the disorder is often denialŃnot recognizing that you are depressed, or thinking that nothing will help, or believing that you will snap out of it on your own, which is very unlikely."

Behling says many people who are clinically depressed donŐt realize it. "That is one thing that is extremely dangerous," he says.

This emphasis on seeking treatment can be seen throughout the documentary.

"I have spoken with well over 100 people who have experienced depression. I think the level of response and the willingness to talk to me, a total stranger, is indicative of how strongly those who have suffered depression feel the need to encourage other people to get help," McCune says.

While many of the Investing in Abilities events focus on physical disabilities, McCune and Behling agree that it makes sense to include depression in the lineup.

"I am stumped by the idea that people would think this is not a disability," McCune says. "When left untreated it can take a terrible toll both on oneŐs work life and private life."

"I think of disability as both physical and psychological disorders, and depression is certainly a debilitating condition," Behling says.

The documentary features a series of taped interviews that show the struggles of 11 students and two faculty members, including Behling.

"The structure of the documentary leads the viewer through the academic year, from the onset of the symptoms to a sense of what the future holds, and advice for others," McCune says.

Also contributing to the film are two U-M psychiatrists, a residence hall director, a faculty advisor from the College of Engineering, a sister of one student and the wife of another.

"These people in the film were all people who felt confident of the need to promote awareness and who are typical or representative of different parts of the campus community," McCune says. "I made an effort to represent the range of experiences."

Though everyone involved in the film is from U-M, depression is common on campuses throughout the country. The documentary is designed to be relevant on any college campus in the United States and Canada, McCune says.

The 30-minute film will be shown at 4 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 8 in the Michigan Theater, 603 E. Liberty, following an introduction by President Mary Sue Coleman. At the conclusion of the film, John Greden, chair of the Department of Psychiatry and senior research scientist at the Mental Health Institute, and Royster Harper, vice president of Student Affairs, will give brief speeches.

Complete listing of Investing in Ability events >

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