Free walk-in counseling services available for students

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Counselor recommends students experiencing depression for an extended period seek help.

By Bismarck D. Andino

sac-ranger@alamo.edu

Mental health problems have a negative stigma and people see as a sign of weakness, but a lot of times it’s more than “you’re not tough enough,” Dr. David Rodriguez, personal counselor, said Nov. 22 in an interview.

“Based on the students I see coming in and talking to my colleagues, it’s fairly prevalent. Depression and anxiety are probably the main two issues we deal with, and sometimes it’s right at front where students come in and say ‘I am depressed,’” Rodriguez said.

Depression has been defined by the Mayo Clinic, a nonprofit organization committed to clinical practices and education, as a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest. Depression is also called major depressive disorder or clinical depression.

Rodriguez said depression is a common occurrence in women who recently have had a child, which he believes is misunderstood because a lot of people think giving birth should be the happiest time in women’s lives. However, this is not always the case.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one of nine women experience maternal depression, in which women may experience hopelessness, worthlessness, suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts.

Although statistics are not available for the number of suicide attributed to maternal depression, in 2013, 41,149 people killed themselves, of which 23.8 percent used antidepressants.

“Depression is physiological because the body is not functioning right, and it’s not producing the right amount of hormones or chemicals that it needs,” Rodriguez said. “All the talking in the world is not going to change anything. That’s the case when medication is required to get those chemicals back in balance.”

Anakaren Rivera, former medical assistant student from this college, said she was admitted to the emergency room at University Hospital after attempting to commit suicide with an overdose in October 2010. She was 19.

Rivera remembers prior to the event she had to work and stay up late to study for classes, and she was judged and rejected by family members because she had a child out of wedlock.

“I didn’t have my parents’ support … my dad didn’t talk to me for six months. He wanted to take me for an abortion,” she said. Rivera also said she underwent pressure as a single mom and a student who had to work to support herself.

When her daughter was 6 months old, Rivera decided to take her own life.

According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, 42,773 Americans die by suicide every year. Although males are four times more likely to die from it, females attempt suicide three times more often than males. To learn more visit https://afsp.org/about-suicide/suicide-statistics/, if you have a crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or contact the crisis Text Line by texting HELLO to 741-741.

Rodriguez said it’s natural to feel sad over things, and that it is part of human nature, but if it persist for a long period of time and there’s no reason to feel that way, then people should address the issue.

To help students who may be experiencing depression, this college offers free individual and group counseling. The counseling center has three full-time and two part-time counselors.

In addition, every semester the counseling center takes interns working on master’s or doctorate degrees in counseling from the University of Texas at San Antonio, Texas A&M University-San Antonio and St. Mary’s University.

Every case is treated with seriousness and discretion, and one of the first things counselors ask students is if they ever had suicidal thoughts, Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez also said they are licensed counselors, which means any information provided by students is confidential, and does not play any role in their academic record.

“We don’t give any information without your permission,” he said.

Counselors refer students to hospitals, private practices or other agencies when cases require further support. Throughout the semester, they do classroom presentations and set up tables in the mall to distribute information to try to reach students like Rivera before it’s too late.

Rivera said she regrets the decision she made because she caused a lot of emotional damage to her family.

Today, however, she is able to speak about this issue to raise awareness and encourage students to seek for help.

She received help from a private agency through this college, and her professors from the medical assisting program offered her tutoring and extensions to turn in her works.

“I suffered a lot, but all was worth it. … I finished my career and my daughter motivated me to keep moving forward,” she said.

Rivera graduated with an Associate of Applied Science degree in medical assisting in 2014 and currently works at a healthcare delivery network.

For information regarding personal counseling, contact Rodriguez at 210-486-0354 or visit Room 122 in Moody Learning Center.  

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