The Evolution of On Campus Depression
The doe-eyed enthusiasm and sentiment of invincibility hasn’t altogether left me after nearly eight months of being an official ‘alumnus.’ I can still taste the late night excursions to Mamoun’s Falafel on MacDougal Street, feel the energy from the daily performers in Washington Square Park, and hear the sagacious words from professors who have devoted their very existences to issues of morality, social justice, international human rights, and yes, even statistics.
Some perhaps think I am too nostalgic, but I revel in my undergraduate memories, from the all-nighters pulled in NYU’s Bobst Library to the 2 AM walks along the West Side Highway during the height of spring. College was a time for self-reflection and intellectual growth, social awareness, and appreciation for the fleeting years that comprise our youth — I am ever-so grateful for this transformative time in my life, and it is difficult to imagine it in any other light.
Of course these years were not without their challenges and obstacles, moments of uncertainty, and confusion — what college-age student doesn’t experience adversity along the way? Social and academic stressors are typical, but a startling UCLA survey by the Cooperative Institutional Research Program reports that 9.5 percent of respondents “felt depressed,” a significant rise over the 6.1 percent reported just five years prior.
Social pressures, ambiguities about the future, and leftover adolescent insecurities are familiar anxieties that plague college-age students, but the depth of such internal issues has become a public health concern. According to Dr. Anthony L. Rostain, a psychiatrist and co-chairman of a UPenn task force on students’ emotional health, “We’re expecting more of students: There’s a sense of having to compete in a global economy, and they think they have to be on top of their game all the time. It’s no wonder they feel overwhelmed.”
Administrators and professors alike must make it a priority to instill the importance of community. The biggest gripe students have with NYU is an apparent ‘lack of community’ — no football team to rally around or prevalent Greek life to assimilate into. This in itself is a paradox — the very reason students choose to attend an urban campus is for its inherent autonomy, yet it can be difficult to navigate such an independent college environment.
It is essential to foster community on any university campus, rural, suburban, and urban, and it is up to the university to make it a priority that students never feel alone or without support. Academic success is, of course, a necessary component of a student’s growth, but teaching principles of collaboration and togetherness is just as vital. At such a critical juncture in a young person’s life, community involvement cannot fall by the wayside, and the more emphasis placed on activities outside the classroom will lead to a more balanced sense of self and overall positive wellbeing.