Depression at an all-time high

Sadie Lebow

New study reports on concerning rates of mental health issues with freshmen

College freshmen nationwide made national news this week due to the publication of a report titled The American Freshman: National Norms 2014 by the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA. The report, published annually, raised concerns about the mental health of incoming freshman, among other issues.

The percentage of students who reported frequently feeling depressed clocked in at 9.5, the highest ever reported by the survey. The report details the academic implications of depression, with students self-reporting they are more likely to skip or fall asleep during class if depressed. The findings were largely old news for Lafayette administrators and Counseling Services.

“We’ve definitely seen a steady increase in usage [of counseling services] at Lafayette,” Director of Counseling Services Dr. Karen Forbes said. “Feeling anxious has always been a reason why students come in. Students struggle with being able to manage their emotions when something bad happens. One of the reasons they use counseling is to talk through their concerns.”

Forbes pointed out that Lafayette no longer administers the American Freshman survey as its results are more reflective of students’ experiences prior to college and less so of the effect college has on their mental health. They replaced the survey with another that is given later in the year that focuses more on students’ academic experiences at Lafayette.

The context of the controversial report is just as, if not more, important than the actual findings. The report appears to be highly reflective of demographic trends, said psychology professor Dr. Susan Basow.

“[The report] reflects the changing population of students who are entering college,”Basow said. “A lot of them are juggling very complicated and stressful lives.”

Changes in student experience prior to college can explain the increase in emotional and mental issues college students face.

“There’s a lot more medication [for mood, attention, and anxiety disorders] being utilized,” Basow said. “That probably means is that there are a lot more students in college who, 20 years ago, would not [have been] able to manage the pressures of college, because their own emotional states were not being well-controlled.”

For students struggling with emotional and mental health issues, Lafayette offers a variety of services through the counseling center at Bailey Health Center.