As part of Mental Illness Awareness Week, October 11 has been designated National Depression Screening Day since 1991. With this day having just passed, we thought this would be a good time for our last article on college students and depression. Marking a day for awareness where depression is discussed and students can get screened at their schools is a good step forward in addressing this major issue on college campuses.
A recent article from Boston University shines more light on just how big of a problem mental illness is for college students. Thursday’s screening was the fourth year for Boston University taking part in the program. During the previous three years of the program, 30-40% of the students screened showed symptoms of depression.
While offering these screenings to students is a step in the right direction, we think colleges can improve their level of care significantly by getting out in front of the issue—by framing both “anxiety” and “depression” as a normal consequence when young people do not have adequate skills to deal with new levels of challenge and responsibility.
The next step in the solution then becomes to provide students with the tools they need. One possible way to do this would be wellness and skill building workshops for the students sometime during their first few weeks on campus with follow-ups during the semester. These workshops would give them information and self-help tools that would hopefully enable them support themselves when they are anxious or feeling depressed – or to seek the appropriate outside help they need.
Some of the issues that arise for students, and that would be discussed at the workshop include:
- Inadequate study skills / feeling unprepared for and overwhelmed by the new level of academic rigor of college
- Overwhelmed by parental expectations for performance and success
- Homesickness and difficulty adjusting
- Financial concerns
- Conflicts with friends, roommates, and/or romantic partners
- Personal identity and/or cultural adjustment issues
- Lack of support system
- Unbalanced life style (i.e. work, school, leisure)
- Alcohol and/or substance abuse
These workshops would introduce the basics of EFT, TAT, positive psychology and/or mindfulness practices (such as Mindsight) with demonstrations and group participation. It would also give an overview of some of the research explaining these techniques. Furthermore, students could use these group gatherings as a means of mutual support and encouragement to help them adjust to the challenges of college and young adulthood.
Teaching students the basics of these techniques is a cost effective, resource-based, preventative approach – and would likely help colleges more effectively manage the widespread emotional distress in their student populations before early symptoms turn into clinical cases.
If you want to check out the first three parts of the series, click below: