Stressed and Depressed on College Campuses

Amy Hendel Health Guide
  • Most kids in America grow up with their parents chanting, "You have to get a college degree."  And a lot of high school kids will tell you that they already know that much of their high school experience, will involve slaving over grades, accumulating volunteerism points, taking as many AP classes as possible to boost their GPA, running for school office, juggling sports activities for that very cause - entry into a good college. 

    So the pressure is at least a means to a very admirable goal.


    Well, these days it is understandable that additional stresses, like the economy, can certainly throw a wrench in college prospects and opportunities.  Kids are getting into college, but certain scholarships and other funding opportunities have disappeared, and student loans are now hard to come by.  Parents can't afford the tuition and they can't even qualify for private loans.  But if you are lucky enough to get into college and afford college, your four year road is now smooth sailing, right?

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    Actually life in college does not appear quite so rosy.  There is now stress over college grades, serious financial worries, sleepless nights and a general feeling of depression and hopelessness being shared by significant numbers of college students.  A recent poll showed that large numbers of college students are at serious risk of depression.  As many as 85% of students said they feel stressed in their daily lives (in recent months) and are concerned with school performance, work performance (since many also have jobs), money issues and relationship issues.  The poll also revealed that 42% had felt depressed or hopeless several days during the 2 weeks prior to the poll.  At least 13% of the students would have been diagnosed with at least mild depression, based on answers to questions used by medical practitioners to diagnose depressive illness.


    The respondents complained of trouble sleeping, having little energy, feeling down and having little hope.  Few had gotten any professional help.  As many as 11% of the students, admitted to having thoughts about injuring themselves, or feeling that they would be "better off dead."  Interview some college seniors on any campus, and they will probably tell you about a couple of students they know personally who rarely came out of their rooms, were not socializing and were thought to be "at risk" for depression.  Certainly we know about some recent tragedies on college campuses, involving clearly depressed and disturbed students.  Experts say that depression can start when you are young; and during college years, when so much pressure is on the student, would seem a likely milestone.  The AP-mtvU poll involved students at 40 American universities.  Specifically it found that:

    • 9% of students were at risk for moderate to severe depression.
    • 25% of students with one parent jobless (recently) showed mild depression
    • Just over one fourth of those who would have been diagnosed with serious symptoms of depression, had actually been diagnosed formally.
    • More than half of those who reported seriously considering suicide (in the year prior to the poll) had not received treatment or counseling.


  • If you are a college student, reach out to your family or mental health professionals on campus for help.  If you are the parent of a college age student, make sure you stay in touch on a regular basis, and get help if you suspect your child may have the warning signs of depression.

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Published On: June 10, 2009