Student Health Services offers a new online program to help you assess your risk of suffering from depression, anxiety or other mental illness.

If you or someone you know is suffering from depression, you’re not alone. A quarter of university students who visit a campus health centre show signs of depression, according to a recent study by the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University.

“At every campus, mental health issues are on the rise,” says Melanie Bowman, manager of the Wellness Centre at U of G’s Student Health Services.

FeelingBetterNow® ( is a comprehensive program available to students, staff and faculty that assesses their mental health, identifies their risk of developing a mental illness and offers advice on what steps they can take.

The program provides reliable, confidential information about mental health issues like anxiety, depression and alcohol abuse. Participants can print the results of their assessment and discuss them with their family doctor.

“It supports family physicians in providing care because most mental illness is actually treated by family doctors,” says Lynda Davenport, director of Student Health Services. Getting an early diagnosis helps people get the treatment they need as soon as possible.

Unlike a broken bone, which can be diagnosed by an X-ray, there’s no way to look inside someone’s mind to find out what they’re going through, says Davenport.

Students face enormous pressure to succeed in school, work and their personal relationships, she adds, yet despite their prevalence, mental health issues still carry a stigma. Cultural and family backgrounds can also influence a student’s perception of mental illness.

“It’s a huge barrier,” says Bowman. “Mental health issues are really misunderstood. People have a lot of fear of what if it happens to them.” Much of that fear surrounds the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness, which makes people reluctant to seek help.

Mental illness is a condition that “defies logic,” Davenport adds. People don’t know why they feel or behave a certain way, and they don’t know what to do if they think they have a mental illness or know someone who does.

“Just like there’s a mystery as to what causes it, there’s a mystery about what’s going to make it better,” she says. “There’s a sense of helplessness for those people who surround somebody with a mental illness. They don’t really know what to say or what to do.”

FeelingBetterNow® is available to more than 500,000 people at major organizations across Canada.

“This is the first time it’s been tweaked for a university audience,” says Bowman, adding that the program was endorsed by the medical staff at Student Health Services.

FeelingBetterNow® was developed by psychiatrists, psychologists, family physicians and workplace mental health experts at universities in Canada and the United States. The program has also been approved by the College of Family Physicians of Canada.

The survey was launched at U of G in September with financial support from the Central Student Association and the Graduate Students’ Association. The site received 200 hits in September and October, as well as 75 revisits.

Davenport cautions students against trying to diagnose themselves using an Internet search because the information they find may not be accurate or reliable.

Student feedback on FeelingBetterNow® has been positive, she adds. They praised the site for its accessibility, making information available around the clock without an appointment. They also liked being able to find information on their own while protecting their privacy. If they don’t feel comfortable discussing their assessment with a health care professional, the program offers advice on steps they can take on their own as well as a list of campus resources.

“You’re not alone,” says Davenport, adding that when people open up about their mental illness, “there are so many people who know exactly what they’re talking about.”