College Students and Depression

College Students And Depression
For many young adults, the college years are the best times of their lives. But too often these critical years of adjustment are undermined by depression, anxiety, substance abuse and eating disorders, sometimes leading to suicide. Researchers are finding that many mental illnesses may be traced to trauma whose damage surfaces in times of stress and change, such as the college years. Some of the threats to college students' mental well-being are highlighted below.

Depression affects over 19 million American adults annually, including college students. At colleges nationwide, large percentages of college students are feeling overwhelmed, sad, hopeless and so depressed that they are unable to function. According to a recent national college health survey, 10% of college students have been diagnosed with depression and including 13% of college women.

Anxiety disorders affect over 19 million American adults every year, and anxiety levels among college students have been rising since the 1950s. In 2000, almost seven percent of college students reported experiencing anxiety disorders within the previous year. Women are five times as likely to have anxiety disorders.

Eating disorders affect 5-10 million women and 1 million men, with the highest rates occurring in college-aged women.

Suicide was the eighth leading cause of death for all Americans, the third leading cause of death for those aged 15-24, and the second leading killer in the college population in 1998.

According to the Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 7.8% of men and 12.3% of women ages 18-24 report frequent mental distress – a key indicator for depression and other mental disorders.

College students are feeling more overwhelmed and stressed than fifteen years ago, according to a recent UCLA survey of college freshman. More than 30% of college freshman report feeling overwhelmed a great deal of the time. About 38% of college women report feeling frequently overwhelmed.

Tips On Dealing With Depression in College
Sometimes the multitude of life’s changes that occur during your college years can trigger serious depression. At this vulnerable time, the smartest thing you can do for yourself is to seek help. If your feelings of constant stress and sadness go on for weeks or months, you may be experiencing more than just difficulty adjusting to life’s changes. Seek assistance from a doctor or mental health professional, the university counseling service, or the student health center. While in treatment, there are a number of steps you can take to help you cope on your way to recovery.

Carefully plan your day
Make time every day to prioritize your work. Prioritizing can give you a sense of control over what you must do and a sense that you can do it.

Participate in an extracurricular activity
Sports, theater, fraternities and sororities, the student newspaper – whatever interests you – can bring opportunities to meet people interested in the same things you are, and these activities provide welcome change from class work.

Seek support from other people
This may be a roommate or a friend from class. Friendships can help make a strange place feel more friendly and comfortable. Sharing your emotions reduces isolation and helps you realize that you are not alone.

Try relaxation methods
These include meditation, deep breathing, warm baths, long walks, exercise – whatever you enjoy that lessens your feelings of stress and discomfort.

Take time for yourself every day
Make special time for yourself – even if it’s only for 15 minutes a day. Focusing on yourself can be energizing and gives you a feeling of purpose and control over your life.

Work towards recovery
The most important step in combating depression and reclaiming your college experience is to seek treatment. Your physician should communicate to you that remission of symptoms should be your goal and work with you to determine whether psychological counseling, medication or a combination of both treatments is needed.

(The content of this fact sheet was adapted from material published by the National Mental Health Association).