Overworked and Overwhelmed: Depression in College

by: Danling Chen

While depression can strike at any age, did you know that it is most prevalent in people aged 18 to 25 (NIMH)? Not coincidentally, this is also the typical age range for the first onset of mental illness. Scientists estimate that at any given time, ten to fifteen percent of teenagers and young adults are experiencing depression. This is an especially daunting prospect for college students, who are often away from home for the first time, and may not know how to cope with their feelings of despondency.

A study conducted by the American College Health Association in 2011 found that roughly 30% of college students at 2 to 4 year universities report feeling “so depressed it was difficult to function” at some time during the school year. Not a terribly surprising finding when considering the numerous challenges that college students face. Plunged into an unfamiliar environment, away from home for the first time, young adults in college must grapple with feelings of homesickness, loneliness, and academic pressure.

College students with depression are more likely to experience alcohol abuse, succumb to cigarette addiction, and engage in unsafe sex. Many individuals fail to seek help because they are unaware of the resources available to them, fear the judgment of their peers, or simply don’t think they need outside help. However, the worst consequence of untreated depression—suicide—is the third leading cause of death for young adults aged 15-24. It is always the safer option to seek help, rather than attempt to “wait out” the feelings.

Numerous low-cost, confidential services exist specifically to help college students cope with depression. Nearly every college or university has a counseling center oriented to students who are struggling to adjust to the new social and academic environment. Counselors help students to develop coping skills, and make lifestyle changes if need be. If finances are a concern, most colleges have student health centers able to dispense prescribed medications at reduced cost. For students in immediate need of someone to talk to, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline (800) 273-TALK operates 24/7, and provides both advice and assistance to anybody who calls.

From personal crises to academic stressors, college students face an entire host of challenges that can significantly impact their performance. There is no shame in seeking help, and students should know how very important it is to tackle depression sooner rather than later. To those who may be struggling with depression, know this: 3 in 10 people are depressed, and you are not as alone as may think yourself to be.


Heller, K. (2012). Depression in Teens and Children. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 1, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/lib/depression-in-teens-and-children/00010763

Tartakovsky, M. (2008). Depression and Anxiety Among College Students.Psych Central. Retrieved on March 1, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/lib/depression-and-anxiety-among-college-students/0001425

NIMH. Major Depressive Disorder Among Adults. Retrieved on March 1, 2014, from http://www.nimh.nih.gov/statistics/1mdd_adult.shtml


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