College students struggle with depression & anxiety

Dec 6, 2018

More college students are being treated for mental health issues.  That is according to a study recently published by the American Psychiatric Association.  WBFO's senior reporter Eileen Buckley says depression and anxiety are high among college students. 

UB students Trevon Liggins & Isabella Nurt.
Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

"I have mild depression and I do suffer from anxiety," said Trevon Liggins of Utica.

Liggins is a senior at the University at Buffalo. He's studying film and stepped out of a night time journalism class on the north campus to talk about his mental health.

Trevon Liggins, of Utica, is a senior at the University at Buffalo.
Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

"I've done an okay job at managing it. Somedays, you know, it’s pretty difficult. Somedays it’s hard to get out of bed, but I make sure that I just tell myself everything will be okay. I try to talk to myself,” Liggins explained.

Busy schedules, working and the cost of college are causing pressure for college students.

"Financial worry is the number one cause of my stress - I'd say," said  Isabella Nurt of Orchard Park.

Nurt is a third year UB student and is majoring in media studies and journalism. She's currently juggling a heavy course load and two-part-time jobs to make it through college.  

Isabella Nurt, of Orchard Park, is a third year UB student.
Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

“Because I use to have one part-time job and I constantly worry about paying for gas and get to school, paying for food and then I got a second part-time job and now I don't have to worry about paying for gas as much, but now I'm just maxed out completely with time,” remarked Nurt.

“I feel like the kids are hit from all sides,” stated Dr. Ludmila De Faria, clinical assistant professor at Florida State University.

De Faria also represents the American Psychiatric Association College Mental Health Caucus.  The new study found a 34-percent increase over the last ten years of college students with mental health issues and students with lifetime diagnoses jumped from 22 to 36-percent and the risks also increases for depression and suicide.  

“It's not just that the number of students in each school increase, and that’s why we’ve seen higher numbers coming into the counseling center psychiatry clinic - I think it is a five-fold increase in the number of students seeking help above and beyond just increase in the number of students enrolling in schools, which is fairly significant,” De Faria noted.

There are several factors for the higher rates.  More students are now being diagnosed before they start college, which is consider a good thing.  Social and emotional issues are also in play.

“They talk about ‘helicopter parents’ and kids that are sort of geared towards academic achievement and not necessarily accomplishing the emotional development that they need too, and then when they get into college they really cannot deal with the stress of being away at college and all of the tasks associated with being an adult,” De Faria said.

Outside on UB's North Campus, Amherst, NY.
Credit WBFO News file photo by Eileen Buckley

But there is help on the UB. Campus. Counselors are available.

Sharon Mitchell is senior director for Student Wellness and director of Counseling Services at the University. Mitchell tells WBFO News in the last five years the number of UB students seeking service has jumped by 24-percent.

“Really trying to educate our campus. We have a program that we call QPR - which stands for Question, Persaud, Refer - which is where our counselors go out to various groups on campus - student groups, faculty, staff - teaching them how to be more responsive to someone who seems like they might be struggling with a mental health or psychological issue and talking to them about what you are seeing that you’re concerned about and then making sure that they know what resources are available,” Mitchell explained.

While there are wait-lists for services, Mitchell tells WBFO News any student that is in need of mental health counseling will get an initial assessment as soon as possible and would not be left on their own. 

UB students on the South Campus in Buffalo.
Credit WBFO News file photo by Eileen Buckley

“We have walk-in crisis appointments every hour of the day, if somebody had an urgent need to be seen, they could be seen and the focus there is on making sure they and other people are safe, so if somebody really had an urgent need - and we don’t turn people away because maybe they’re not a danger to themselves, we are still going to talk to them and figure out what’s going on,” Mitchell responded.

But for UB student Liggins he hasn’t reach out for assistance just yet, trying to maintain his mental health worries on his own.

“I talk to my close friends. I talk to my mom. I’m just like very open and vulnerable with my feelings. I feel like if I bottle them up, it will just make it worse and make my anxiety worse because I don’t like to be high-strung. I try to keep away from being stressed,” Liggins replied.

UB student Nurt is also trying to manage her anxiety on her own, but realizes there is campus help.

“But you would ask for help if you needed”? Buckley asked Nurt. “You know - I probably should have asked for help by now, but I haven’t, again, because I don’t have time in my day,” answered Nurt.

Experts indicate college students feel additional stress from the nation's political environment the escalation of violence and being the 'I-Generation' constantly attached to mobile devices and living on-line.