Written by: Deven Kosciusko

Passersby collected their free hugs from members of the student-run “No More Bad Days” depression and anxiety support group at the corner of Fourth and Center Street on Tuesday, Jan. 31.

Michael Menendez, co-founder of the support group and a senior studying communication, said the ten-to-fifteen members meet once a week and discuss how they personally cope with anxiety and depression.

“There are no professionals here; it’s completely student-run, and it is growing,” Menendez said. “I think our biggest goal is to let everyone know that no matter what – no matter what – whatever it is you’re going through, we love you and we’re here.”

Christian Anderson, founder of the support group and a sophomore majoring in international studies, said he and the members of the group are giving free hugs to raise awareness of both anxiety and depression among college students.

MICHAEL BACA SOTO | Scroll Photography

“It hits a lot more people than you would think,” Anderson said. “I’ve had people come up to me and say ‘I struggle with this too,’ and they’re people that you would have no idea that struggle with depression.

Almost half of college students struggle with anxiety, and nearly just as many struggle with depression, according to the American Psychological Association. Forty-six percent of college students reported having struggled with anxiety and 40 percent of college students reported having struggled with depression.

“The fact that over one-in-four college students struggle with this is a big deal,” Anderson said. “A lot of students know they have depression, and they just won’t go get help, and it’s really sad. I’ve had friends who have committed suicide; the suicide rate for college campuses is really high.”

Depression is the third-leading cause of death among college students, with 30 percent of college students having seriously considered committing suicide, according to the American Psychological Association.

“It’s especially hard here in Rexburg,” Anderson said. “It’s cold, and it’s cloudy three months out of the year.”

Anderson said his goal is to eventually have the group branch out to other college campuses so that people struggling with depression at school can continue to attend some kind of depression self-help group, whether they are at home or on campus.

“We’re planning on opening up in Provo, if not this upcoming Fall, then next Winter,” Anderson said. I think the problem is that people aren’t talking about it; it’s almost like taboo, and my goal is to make it so that it’s not that way. If your foot is broken, you don’t hide it from people; you walk around in a boot, you know? It’s the same idea here.”