Thursday, May 10, 2012

College students suffer from depression, and technology can help

A new study reports that 37% of college students who seek help report severe psychological problems, which is more than twice the rate of a similar study in 2000.  Counselors report that self injury and eating disorders both appear on the rise. Suicide is reported as the second leading cause of death among college students after accidents.

Depression Clipart Image: Teenage Girl Depressed And Lonely

Image courtesy of

The article above reports that University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill's incoming freshman will be required to read a book on how the internet contributes to feelings of loneliness and disconnection. While it is good for each person to explore the impacts of their online social worlds on their personal well-being, for many young people the online world is a place to make connections, learn new things, problem solve, and perhaps even increase a student's experience of social support and self esteem.

ULifeline is one way that technology is helping students explore their own well-being.  This site reports over 10,000 visitors per month, and is customized to help provide resources for over 1,000 campuses. There are many self-screening quizzes that help students identify help for themselves or a friend. The site has many good articles about how to recognize problems and support peers.

Many college students are affected by anxiety and depression, but both of these problems are well-researched and improve with talk therapy and/or medication. Since stigma contributes to help-seeking behavior of college students, especially in certain groups, the internet could play a role in normalizing the experiences of help seekers and encourage cognitive awareness about mental health. More research should be done about how well sites that provide mental health information convert self-assessment to actual community-based help for the many college students who report symptoms.

Facebook is one online place where many college students spend time.  It appears support from Facebook friends may play a role in increasing social capital, well-being, and combating stigma if friends are supportive to online disclosures. However, if you share your life on Facebook check your privacy settings: researchers may try to clinically diagnose your status updates without you ever knowing about it!

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