Depression in College Students

"Sixteen percent of Americans experience an episode of major depression at some time in their lives” (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2014). The rates of depression are the highest for the age group of 18 to 29 so chances are that you probably know someone who has depression, maybe even yourself (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2014). Studies have shown high rate of depression among Native Americans, followed by Hispanics, Caucasian Americans, and then African Americans. Women are twice as likely as men to suffer from depression and women are also two to three times more likely than men to attempt suicide, although men are four times more likely than women to successfully commit suicide (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2014). The risk of suicide increases with any mental illness but depression raises the odds six times and bipolar disorder raises the odds seven times so it’s important to know the signs and symptoms of these illnesses.

Depression and Society

In the media it is rare for a character to suffer from a mental illness such as depression, and if they do the show usually focuses on the character abusing drugs and alcohol or engaging in risky behavior to cope. We also are bombarded with advertisements for medications for depression. These commercials usually depict a person who is depressed and takes the advertised drug to quickly get their life back. These kinds of portrayals may make people think that depression is not as serious of an illness as it is. Or that the only hope for depression is to take medications, which are always listing a huge amount of side effects. This can discourage people from seeking help if they don’t want to be medicated. Another way that the media portrays mental illness negatively is when a person commits a crime the news always talks about if they’ve had a past mental illness. This portrayal of extreme circumstances can create a social stigma against all people with mental health problems. Although it is true that the odds of a person committing a violent act because of having a mental illness are higher compared to someone without a mental illness they are much more likely to be the victim of violence rather than the perpetrator (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2014). People can actually experience worsening depression when they are judged by society, “stigma perpetrated by social network members was the best predictor of depression symptom severity” (Frey, Hans, & Cerel, 2015).

“Mental illness is one of the most stigmatized conditions in our society” (Stout, Villegas, & Jennings, 2004) and this can make it hard for people to seek help for fear of being judged. Other reasons a person may not seek help are not wanting to be on medications or not realizing that they have a mental illness. Sometimes people may be so used to their mood fluctuations that they don’t realize they have a problem. There is another kind of depression, called bipolar disorder, in which a person could have extreme energy (mania) alternating with the lows of depression which they may just think are normal mood swings.

Symptoms & Prognosis

Symptoms of depression can include: depressed mood (most of the day, nearly every day), loss of enjoyment in activities you once liked, significant weight loss or gain without trying, insomnia, fatigue, feeling worthless or guilty, having a hard time concentrating, and having recurrent thoughts of death. Symptoms of bipolar disorder can include depressed mood along with: feeling rested after very little sleep, racing thoughts, feeling like you can’t stop talking, being easily distracted, and not being able to control your impulses regarding spending or investing money or in sexual situations even if they are risky (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2014). The good news is that, “up to 80% of those treated for depression show an improvement in their symptoms generally within four to six weeks of beginning medication, psychotherapy, attending support groups or a combination of these treatments” (DBSA, 1998).

We're here to help!

If you think you or someone you know may be suffering from a mental illness please come talk to us in the campus counseling center or make an appointment to see your doctor.

Resources for Help

If you feel you may harm yourself call 9-1-1 or
National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK.


Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance. Depression Statistics. Retrieved February 3, 2016 from: /site/PageServer?pagename=education_statistics_depression

Frey, L. M., Hans, J. D., & Cerel, J. (2015). Perceptions of suicide stigma: How do social networks and treatment providers compare? Crisis: The Journal of Crisis Intervention and Suicide Prevention, doi:

Nolen-Hoeksema, Susan. (2014). Abnormal Psychology, 6th edition. New York, NY. McGraw- Hill Education.

Stout, P. A., Villegas, J., & Jennings, N. A. (2004). Images of mental illness in the media: Identifying gaps in the research. Schizophrenia Bulletin, 30(3), 543-561. Retrieved from