Huge study of mental health kicks off at UCLA

A wide-ranging research initiative seeks to understand the causes of depression in young people, Tracy Seipel reports for the Mercury News.

A recent survey by the American College Health Association found that 38% of the 33,500 student respondents reported feeling "so depressed that it was difficult to function." And 10.4% of all respondents said they had considered suicide.

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To get a better sense of the issue of depression among college students, the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) has launched a Depression Grand Challenge, which will involve screening as many as 10,000 incoming freshmen and transfer students for depression in order to study the causes and treatments of the disorder.

Researchers plan to screen each participant for depression and related mental health conditions, including anxiety. Researchers plan to refer some students to an online support program and other students with more serious symptoms to counseling.

The Depression Grand Challenge is part of a larger initiative involving more than 100 faculty from 25 departments, such as neuroscience, medicine, computer science, and economics. Leaders of the initiative hope to eventually study the genomes of more than 100,000 participants. Seipel reports that program officials plan to fund the project with a combination of donations, federal funding, and investor funding.

Ultimately, UCLA hopes to cut the incidence of depression worldwide in half by 2050 (Seipel, Mercury News, 9/22).

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