Health Notes: Depression and Prevention During the Holidays

Oct. 2, 2008

AUSTIN, Texas — October is National Depression Education and Awareness Month and researchers at The University of Texas at Austin are available to discuss topics ranging from preventing suicidal behavior to diagnosing and treating clinical depression.

Diagnosing Symptoms of Depression
Christopher Beevers
Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology
512-232-3706
beevers@psy.utexas.edu

Beevers examines risk factors and treatment for clinical depression. Using a tracking system to record eye movements and analyze how the brain processes visual information, Beevers found that depressed people focus more on threatening, distressing images. People who were not depressed did not display this bias.

Kevin Stark
Professor, Department of Educational Psychology
512-471-0267
kevinstark@mail.utexas.edu

Stark completed the largest study on depression in preteen and teen girls, and examines prevention, assessment and intervention strategies. He created the Texas Child Study Center in Austin, which provides child and family mental health services to the central Texas area. Learn more in the feature story "Emotion Detectives."

The Healing Power of Writing
James Pennebaker
Chairman, Department of Psychology
512-232-2781
pennebaker@mail.utexas.edu

Pennebaker is a pioneer in the study of using expressive writing as a route to healing. His research reveals that short-term focused writing can have a beneficial effect on individuals who are experiencing emotional upheavals. Pennebaker is the author of several books, including "Opening Up" and "Writing to Heal." Learn more in the feature story "Writing to Heal."

Coping With the Loss of a Parent
Debra Umberson
Professor, Department of Sociology
512-232-6330
umberson@prc.utexas.edu

Umberson's research has revealed the death of the parent has a much more profound and far-reaching impact on adult children than most people believe. She is the author of "Death of a Parent: Transition to a New Adult Identity," which explores the social and psychological factors that determine how the loss of a parent affects adult children.

Elizabeth Pomeroy
Professor, School of Social Work
512-232-3405
bpomeroy@mail.utexas.edu

Pomeroy co-directs the Institute for Grief, Loss and Family Survival in the School of Social Work. She works with adults, families and children on issues related to grief and trauma, which often turn into depression. She also examines interventions for families affected by chronic illness and grief.

Unmasking Male Depression
Aaron Rochlen
Associate Professor, Department of Educational Psychology
512-471-0361
aaron.rochlen@mail.utexas.edu

Rochlen conducted a study on depression among men and found men and women exhibit different symptoms of depression. His findings revealed that men tend to resist acknowledging they have depression and are reluctant to use mental health services to improve their lives. Learn more in the feature story "Being a Man About It."

Battling the Bulge and the Blues
John Bartholomew
Associate Professor, Department of Kinesiology and Health Education
512-232-6021
john.bart@mail.utexas.edu

Bartholomew studies the impact of exercise on mental health, with a specific interest in the use of single bouts of exercise to improve mood and reduce reactivity to stress. According to his study, only 30 minutes of exercise can significantly lift the mood of a person suffering from a major depressive disorder. The study revealed that exercise yields immediate benefits. Learn more in the feature story "Get Moving!"

Suicidal Thoughts Among College Students
Chris Brownson
Director, Counseling and Mental Health Center
512-475-6990
cbrownson@austin.utexas.edu

Brownson co-investigated a Web-based study and found more than half of 26,000 students surveyed across 70 colleges and universities reported having at least one episode of suicidal thinking at some point in their lives. The study revealed more than half of students who experienced a recent suicidal crisis did not seek professional help or tell anyone about their suicidal thoughts.

Building Resilience to Combat Depression and Stress
Mary Steinhardt
Distinguished Teaching Professor, Department of Kinesiology and Health Education
512-232-3535
msteinhardt@mail.utexas.edu

Steinhardt is a kinesiologist and health educator who researches the development and implementation of programs that improve individual and organizational resilience. She has worked with Dell, Motorola, 3M, Applied Materials and Home Depot to teach their staffs about resilient responses to stress. She has conducted studies of stress alleviation in pre-service teachers, military wives, college students and African Americans who have type 2 diabetes. Learn more in the feature story "Bouncing Back."

Aging and Mental Health
Namkee Choi
Professor, School of Social Work
512-232-9590
nchoi@mail.utexas.edu

Choi researches the mental health needs of low-income older adults and depression treatment for homebound and nursing home residents. She studies symptoms of depression among different age groups and attitudes toward mental health treatment. She also examines care-giving treatments for individuals with depression in nursing homes.

Barriers for Mental Health Treatment
King Davis
Professor, School of Social Work and the Robert Lee Sutherland
Chair, Mental Health and Social Policy
512-232-7117
kingdavis@mail.utexas.edu

Davis examines disparities in minority communities'access to mental health care. He also researches public mental health policies and services, health literacy and awareness, particularly among minorities. He is former director of the university's Hogg Foundation for Mental Health.

For more information, contact: Jessica Sinn, College of Liberal Arts, 512-471-2404.