College: institution of higher education or breeding ground for depression and anxiety?

Kiera McGee, Staff Writer

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Going to college represents taking the next step in life, one where young adults leave home for the first time and begin to experience the world on their own. After being told what to do and how to behave for nearly two decades, freshmen are suddenly forced to deal with both the benefits and the consequences of being truly independent. For many, this is an exciting period of discovery and exposure to a new lifestyle; for others, the transition is overwhelming and can lead to issues such as sickness and mental illness.

A survey published by UCLA, “The American Freshman: National Norms Fall 2014,” found that 9.5 percent of respondents reported feeling depressed over the last year, a significant increase from the 6.1 percent reported in their 2009 survey. 34.6 percent of respondents in this survey also reported feeling extremely overwhelmed. Depression and anxiety are problems that are prevalent at every college or university, but the steadily increasing numbers are alarming.

Higher debt and lower job prospects for the current generation of students indicate that competition is far more vicious than it used to be. The average students are finding themselves in contest with the “overachievers” for the same entry-level positions. Many high schools in the public education system have not adapted to the modern need for a rigorous curriculum and have failed to adequately prepare their students for college. Though these students may have the test scores on paper, the college academic environment is often much more difficult than they had initially anticipated.

The college culture often lends itself to depression in more ways than just academics. It is no secret that many college students are sleep-­deprived, exercise infrequently, and have poor eating habits. In addition, they are more likely to binge drink and abuse drugs since they no longer have to worry about parental discipline and are constantly surrounded by like-minded people.

The unusual concept of unadulterated freedom leads many students to push themselves past their breaking points. The college “hook­up culture,” or the acceptance and encouragement of casual sex, can also deteriorate a naive freshman’s self­-esteem, confidence, and view of relationships in general. All of these factors create a breeding ground for mental health issues like depression and anxiety in colleges nationwide.

Unfortunately, depression is the number one reason that college students drop out of school or take their own lives. While the University is a prestigious institution, renowned for providing a premier undergraduate education, it is not immune to the mental health crisis that is sweeping the nation. The University has a higher than average rate of sexual assault and a widespread acceptance of the hookup culture that may lead to increased rates of depression or anxiety. Its reputation as a school that works hard and plays hard may also facilitate such struggles.

Depression is sometimes referred to as a “silent killer” because friends and family members are often shocked to discover that their loved one has been suffering. In the isolated college environment, responsibility rests on the shoulders of students to ensure that depression does not claim one of their peers.

One smile can be all that it takes to save a life–have you smiled today?

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