Freshman depression rates on the rise

Overwhelmed by a difficult roommate, a biochemistry major’s class schedule and being a long distance from home, a Loyola freshman, who chose to remain anonymous, began to feel anxious — and depressed.

But she isn’t alone.

More college freshmen are reporting feelings of depression, according to a 2014 survey of 150,000 college freshmen conducted by the University of California, Los Angeles’ Cooperative Institutional Research Program (CIRP).

Out of the students surveyed, 9.5 percent reported feeling frequently depressed. This is up 3.4 percentage points compared to the lowest rates of depression ever the survey reported in 2009.

CIRP said these findings highly correlate with the responses it received about emotional health. Freshmen were asked to self-rate their emotional health compared to other students their age. An all-time low of 50.6 percent was reported –– which is a 2.3 percentage point drop-off from the 2013 rating.

David DeBoer, a clinical psychologist and Loyola’s Wellness Center’s clinical director, said he hasn’t noticed these trends at Loyola.

“It’s pretty consistent with mental health clinics for this population,” said DeBoer. “We are seeing a lot of distressed students, and a lot of students … who have severe, more crisis-oriented issues that require hospitalization, but I wouldn’t say that our numbers have seen a sharp increase in terms of prevalence.”

However, the Wellness Center noticed a 1.1 percent  increase in students diagnosed with depression between 2010 and 2013. DeBoer said at this point it’s too soon to decide whether the increase was a “blip” or a trend.

The freshman biochemistry major, who had trouble adjusting during her first semester on campus, was one of the students who sought help at the Wellness Center’s free counseling sessions.

“Just talking it out with somebody who has an unbiased opinion about things really helps. Your friends can only handle so much, and then it’s like, what do you do after that?” said the now 20-year-old sophomore. “It was so helpful to be able to go there and talk about ways to make me feel better.”

Loyola offers six to eight free counseling sessions per student each academic year, but students may be put on a waiting list. While the length of the wait varies throughout the semester –– with peak times during midterms and finals –– DeBoer said two weeks is the average wait time.

However, waitlists are a nationwide issue. In a survey of 380 college counseling center directors, one-third reported having a waitlist for their services during the 2012-2013 academic year.

One director commented on the survey that a waiting list formed at the school within the first month during the fall and spring semesters, and that the last student did not make it off the list until the week of final exams.

The same director wrote waitlists “are particularly discouraging to young adults who have gotten up the courage to ask for help (and are often still ambivalent),” and reported 17 students left the list after not receiving treatment.

Although the Loyola sophomore said talking with friends provided some relief ­— and even helped her friends to open up about their own troubles –– she said seeking the help of a professional is sometimes the best action to take.

“Ultimately, it’s for you to get better. Obviously you want your friends to get better, but you want to get better and find that place where you enjoy life, you enjoy school and everything,” she said. “If you are a very closed-off person, going and talking to someone can be very helpful –– as opposed to talking to a friend.”

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