Is Depression on the Rise Within College Students?
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Health and Wellness

Is Depression on the Rise Within College Students?


The National Institute of Mental Health defines depression as, "a common but serious mental illness typically marked by prolonged sad or anxious feelings."

This week, yet another tragedy enveloped Baylor University's campus with the heartbreaking passing of San Antonio senior, Joshua Partridge. 

To disregard the larger implications of Partridge's death would be a disservice to this campus. Students, faculty, and staff must be informed of the signs of depression. We must be vigilantly aware and looking for these signs, as well as know what can be done in assistance of friends, peers and sometimes oneself. 

It was reported in 2011 by the American College Health Association–National College Health Assessment that 30% of college students claimed feelings of doubt and depression made it difficult, and often prevented them, from carrying on their normal day-to-day activities. According to a study by the American Psychological Association in 2011 and a report by the National Public Radio, the percentage of students on psychiatric medication has increased by 10% over the last ten years alone. A study by Northwestern University found that one out of every four or five students who visits a university health center for a routine cold or sore throat turns out to be depressed.

The college experience itself can often bring about symptoms of depression. Students are in a new environment, often have a heavier stress load due to rigorous courses and have left behind the only support system of family and friends that most have ever known. Dr. Katherine Nordal, with the American Psychological Association points out that unfortunately, this new set of peers does not typically have a reference point for the student’s behavior, making it harder to determine what behaviors are out of character for the student and when to become concerned. 

As depression among students increases, recognizing the symptoms can become even more difficult.  Symptoms usually develop over longer periods of time and are often unnoticeable to many. Some symptoms that are indicators of possible depression include a separation from friends and family, loss of interest, feelings of worthlessness, problems concentrating and making decisions, minor prevailing health issues, sudden outbursts of unexplainable rage or sadness and strange changes in sleeping/eating patterns. 

College students suffering from depression specifically tend to become extremely lethargic about attending class and completing assignments. They can also develop a severe alcohol or drug dependency. 

If you or a friend ever feel like these symptoms describe you, the safest and most effective next step is to talk to a doctor or mental health care provider. Most colleges, like Baylor, offer free or cheap mental health care to students. Thankfully, treatments for this illness have very high success rates. When treating depression, early diagnosis is key. This is where the student body can help by staying vigilant for symptoms. 

If ever you feel you might need help immediately or are contemplating suicide, please call the national suicide prevention hotline at 1-800-273-8255. If you or someone you know is in a crisis, make sure you are aware of the signs of depression. 

Never take comments about suicide lightly. Be there for your friends and listen to what they have to say; don’t be afraid to encourage them towards seeking professional help. Luckily, young people are often more resilient and can heal from this mental illness much faster and more completely than most adults. As the number of students that depression impinges upon continues to increase, we as a community need to become more aware of the signs and preventative measures in order to better protect ourselves and others.

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