Counseling center simulates mental illness at DSM Live

By: Nilo Exar, Staff Writer

Last Tuesday, April 7, the Counseling Center hosted TU’s first annual “DSM Live” in conjunction with NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness. The event featured a virtual tour through the ins and outs of university communities’ most prevalent mental illnesses.

“The DSM… stands for The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Illness, and it’s basically psychiatry’s bible, if you will, for all the diagnosable mental illnesses and disorders,” staff psychologist and the Depression and Anxiety Coordinator for Ward and West, Dr. John Schettino said.

The illnesses covered at DSM Live included depression, eating disorders, trauma, anxiety, OCD, Schizophrenia, which often develops in the early 20s, according to the presentation, and manic episodes, a part of bipolar disorder.

Schettino said that the event provided Towson students with awareness on mental illnesses that often affect their age group.

“I figured a good way to reach students for an outreach activity would be to have an event that focuses on abnormal psychology, mental illness, and educates the campus community about that in a fun way that’s not about lectures and PowerPoints,” Schettino said.

For the event, various rooms in the counseling center were set up for each mental illness.  The depression room was kept dark and quiet, and it had whiteboards where students could write what they did when they were depressed, how they felt when they were depressed, or any other thoughts related to depression.

In the mania room, students were thrown into a fast-paced environment and were tasked with having to speak non-stop about a certain topic for a minute to try to simulate the rush of their brain, like someone having a manic episode might feel.

“We also looked at trauma, too, which is important to college campuses, not just PTSD that might come from an accident, but also PTSD that can come from sexual assault, abuse… students returning who are military veterans,” Schettino said.

Each room also had posters on the walls providing general information about the mental illness, including how it develops, symptoms, who is likely to get it, and how it is able to be treated.  Schettino said that all students are always welcome in the counseling center, and that he wants to help erase the stigma of mental illness.

“My personal take on it is that mental illness is no different than a physical illness.  It’s just as real as that, there’s biological bases behind a lot of mental illness,” Schettino said.

To Schettino, the event was a success and he hopes to continue it in the future. He said that the counseling center planned for 100 maximum participants, but got closer to 140. He said they had to turn away an extra 25 people at the door.

“I think we definitely want to do it again next year.  I think we want to expand it a little bit, plan for more people, maybe cover different areas of mental illness that we didn’t touch on in this event that are important to a campus community, like substance abuse [and] alcohol abuse,” Schettino said.

Ultimately, the event was meant to help students at Towson accept mental illness and show that the counseling center is open to treat any student in need.

“The reason why we did the event is to give people a sense and understand a little bit more about mental illness so it comes out of the shadows and is something people can talk about and feel less stigmatized about,” Schettino said.

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