Depression on Campus

Barry Lenson

Recent news stories highlight the fact that college students are depressed – sometimes severely.

At Cornell, a wave of six student suicides early in the 2009-2010 school year had university officials scrambling for answers. The campus police actually installed anti-suicide nets under the bridges that span the campus’s famous gorges, and posted campus police on them to discourage would-be jumpers.

Then last March, the problem of student depression made headlines again, when an outwardly happy-looking Yale student jumped off the Empire State Building to his death.

What’s going on? Why are students at leading institutions depressed, sometimes suicidal?

There are no easy answers. But Terrie Williams might have hit on the big causes, when she wrote these words for the Black Collegian Blog:

“Truth be told, college life is hard.  As much as we want to believe the experience to be the stereotypical wild, freewheeling, independent time of our lives, the reality is it's a lot of work—hard work.  Sometimes, the demands, anxiety, and responsibilities of pursuing higher education becomes too much to handle, easily plunging you into depression with no clue what to do about it.”

Here are some resources that Williams recommends to students who find themselves sinking into depression:

  • College transition programs
  • Counseling, psychiatric and psychological services
  • Dormitory director or assistant director
  • Student organizations that promote cultural, religious, racial, or social unity
  • A trusted professor or staff member
  • Advising staff including deans, counselors, and student activities coordinators
  • Mentors
  • Spiritual, religious, or inter-faith groups

“You don't have to pretend anymore,” Williams writes. “You don't have to maintain the façade of lies to yourself and others. As you move forward in your college studies and managing all your responsibilities, it will serve you well to remember to take good care of your inner self.  That begins with facing your feelings and doing something about it whenever you feel yourself sinking.  You have the power to remove your mask, to get the help you need to pick yourself up, and to allow your soul to breathe free.  Yes, college is hard and life has its challenges, but I have all the faith in the world that you will make it through the fire and emerge, degree in hand, as a whole, healthy individual ready to take on the world.”

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