Depression on campus is an ongoing issue that colleges must face. According to the American College Health Association, the number of students who report ever being diagnosed with depression has more than doubled since 2000, from 10 percent to 22 percent in the spring of 2017.
But Dr. Paul Granello, an associate professor of counselor education at Ohio State University (OSU), is trying to turn those numbers around with his creation, the Stress Management and Resiliency Training (SMART) Lab. “We keep losing people to suicide on college campuses around this country,” he says. “The stress of the college student has gone up significantly.”
An idea is born
A few years ago, Granello, whose wife is an OSU professor who counsels students in the college’s suicide prevention program, was looking for additional ways to prevent suicide. Treatment programs for anxiety and depression had been sufficient, he says, but preventative programs—before students get to crisis mode—were lacking. So Granello developed a SMART lab that pairs wellness coaching with biofeedback. The biofeedback, provided by HeartMath, offers scientifically based tools and technologies to empower students to self-regulate their emotions and behaviors to reduce stress and unlock intuition.
The lab, which cost $10,000 to create, has served more than 700 students since it opened in 2017. It is housed in the Physical Activity and Education Service building and is open 21 hours per week. When students visit, they use computers and Heart Math’s emWave Pro devices, which have sensors that measure heart-rate variability or gaps between heartbeats.
Nine students, including four doctoral students, operate the lab, which is a collaboration of the Department of Educational Studies and OSU Student Life. “The lab trains people in stress management and resiliency skills,” says Granello. “It’s a nice way to show students they are making progress.”