Three quarters of mental illnesses occur by the time individuals reach university age, amplifying the pre-existing stress of university life (Kessler, 2005).
Depression is one of the most common psychiatric disorders diagnosed in students at the McMaster Student Wellness Centre.
Ultimately, in a university setting, depression can lead to lower marks, higher drop out rates, and a greater risk of suicide.
Collaborative care involves medical and counselling services working together in order to create patient focused individualized care. Collaborative care is a proven method to not only decrease symptoms of depression, but also improve patient quality of life and increase patient satisfaction (Archer, et al., 2012; Katon, 2009; Richards, et al., 2013).
The National College Depression Partnership (NCDP) is an initiative based out of New York University aiming to implement collaborative care into schools. The McMaster Student Wellness Centre is the first Canadian school to implement the NCDP initiative!
a. By 4 weeks, the aim is to create an individualized management plan. This could include:
i. Individual counselling
ii. Group counselling
iv. Self Care (e.g. Exercise)
b. By 8 weeks, the goal is to see a significant reduction in depressive symptoms. At this point, since the student should be feeling a bit better help the student take control of their mental health through a self-care goal (see below).
c. By 12 weeks, the aim is to see students in remission, meaning the student is not (at this time) experiencing any debilitating depressive symptoms.
The PHQ-9 is a 9-question depression-screening tool used to identify the severity of depressive symptoms. The PHQ-9 is used to identify students having difficulties and subsequently track their progress throughout treatment. This questionnaire identifies any areas of concern and allows the mental health team to make changes to care.
The initiative helps student’s create a self-care goal. The self-care goal engages the student in their care and enables them to take control of their mental health. The self-care goal is created by the student, and is essentially anything that the individual believes will improve their mental health. Examples could include goals related to exercise, healthy eating, sleeping, socializing, etc. This goal demonstrates that what you do for yourself has a big impact on how you feel.
Many students with depression get lost in follow-up especially due to busy class schedules. The NCDP initiative has created a care manager role. The care manager is a nurse who ensures that students are getting the help they need. The care manager proactively reaches out to students who have not returned for follow-up to help them book a follow-up or to simply remind the student that the staff at the McMaster Student Wellness Centre are here whenever they need help and they are welcome back anytime.