The Depression Grand Challenge has taken many strides towards reaching its goal of cutting the rate of depression in half by 2050. As of last year, UCLA was “believed to be the first university to conduct a ‘campus-wide mental health screening program’, where it invited students to “check in” and offer them treatment within the study’s 8 week Internet Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (iCBT) program if they showed signs of mild to moderate depression or anxiety. This multifaceted challenge encompasses many groups working towards the same goal through different approaches and focus areas. One of these groups is the Resilience Peer Network (RPN), a combination of UCLA undergraduate and graduate students that are trained to support their fellow peers as they work their way through the 8 week iCBT study. RPN just announced a new name for their resilience peer services, the STAND (screening and treatment for depression and anxiety) program. Once members have gone through the necessary training, they will officially become a STAND peer and are eligible to facilitate many different kinds of support groups, including one-on-one and group settings.
RPN teaches their Resilience Peers a number of tools to combat negative emotions and increase one’s ability to cope. The 8 week iCBT program has a different focus or tool to share with participants each week, such as developing an exercise routine, starting a mindfulness practice, hunting for positives, and shifting attention, to name a few. One of the wonderful things about the iCBT program is that it provides a holistic overview of mental health and offers a diverse group of tools which participants get to test out themselves each week to see what works best for them.
As a STAND Peer within the program, I have my favorite lessons and skills picked out, and I actively use them and share them with those around me. You don’t have to take my word for it though, you can try it for yourself:
Hunting for Positives:
We all have bad days, and, unfortunately, bad days will continue to happen to us in the future. We simply cannot control everything. Wouldn’t it be nice though if those bad days didn’t have to be all bad? The truth is that they probably aren’t, but we allow ourselves to get so caught up in our emotions and events of the bad day that it distracts us from appreciating the good parts of it that may just make the day seem not so bad after all.
Maybe you passed by some pretty flowers on your walk, or got to pet a cute dog, or you got a call from a loved one you haven’t heard from in a while. Those are all positives that deserve to be recognized and that could change the way you feel about a bad day. As you continue on throughout the rest of your day, I challenge you to hunt for positives and see how you feel when you turn in.
Numerous studies will tell you about the positive effects of practicing mindfulness, but these effects are more believable if you experience them yourself. Let’s try a short meditation right now to give you a bit of a break from your day. We’ll do a public places guided meditation focusing on body and sound that you can do wherever and whenever you have a spare three minutes. The transcript below is one of many mindfulness exercises available on the Mindfulness Awareness Research Center (MARC) website and is accessible to all UCLA students, faculty, and staff. Take your time to read through the meditation, and really focus on being present during this break.
“Begin this meditation by noticing the posture that you’re in.
You may be standing or sitting or lying down.
Notice your body exactly as it is.
And see if you can tune into any sensations that are present to you in your body in this moment. There might be heaviness or lightness, pressure, weight.
There might be vibration, pulsating, movement, warmth, coolness.
These sensations can be anywhere in your body.
And all you have to do is notice them.
Notice what’s happening with curiosity and interest.
Take a breath. As you breathe, relax. Not much to do except be fully present and aware.
Now let go of the body’s sensations, and turn your attention to the sounds inside or outside the room.
There may be all sorts of sounds happening.
Loud sounds, quiet sounds You can also notice the silence between the sounds.
But the sounds are coming and going.
Notice them coming and going.
One tendency of our mind is to want to think about the sounds.
To start to make up a story about the sound,or we have a reaction to it: I like it, I don’t like it. See if instead, you can simply listen to the sound.
Notice it with curiosity and interest.
The sounds are coming and going.
Now once again, notice your body standing, present or seated or lying down.
Notice any body sensations that are obvious to you.
Take another breath.
And when you’re ready, bring your attention back into the room.”
How do you feel now? Take a bit of time to check in with yourself.
The above two tools are just a couple of my favorites that I learned through my involvement in the Resilience Peer Network’s STAND program. There is so much the Resilience Peers and the program have to offer, whether you’re looking to become involved through facilitating support groups or receiving treatment through the study. Learn more about RPN’s STAND program training and application process here, or take the check-in survey to track your mental health here.
Aubrey Freitas is an undergraduate student at UCLA double majoring in English Literature and Psychology with a minor in Italian. She is a blogger for the Semel Healthy Campus Initiative Center at UCLA in the Mind Well section, which focuses on the importance of mindfulness and mental health. Aubrey is the founder of the organization Warm Hearts to Warm Hands, which teaches the skill of knitting to people of the community in return for their donation of an article of clothing they create with the skill, to be given to local homeless shelters.