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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

UA combats national collegiate blues

The adjustment from high school to a university environment can be highly demanding as students take on more work and responsibilities away from home. This enlarged workload can lead to increased stress, anxiety and depression in college students.

The demands students face at the UA are a sample of the challenges that students face nationwide: hours devoted to studying, extracurricular activities and other commitments like work to pay for living expenses and student loans. Nationwide studies have shown that this increased workload can result in heightened mental and emotional stress for collegegoers.

Earlier this year, the California-based Cooperative Institutional Research Program released the results of its annual survey of over 150,000 college freshmen throughout the U.S. The study, conducted over the last 50 years at the University of California, Los Angeles, presents a grim trend for first-year undergraduates. Over a five-year period, students who reported feeling depressed rose to 9.5 percent from 6.1 percent, and those who were feeling overwhelmed by schoolwork and college-related activities rose from 27.1 percent to 34.6 percent. 

“From my perspective, I think the findings of this study are pretty well validated,” said Stephanie Kha, the director of the Student Health Advocacy Committee, an on-campus committee that works to coordinate health questions and concerns of UA students with faculty and health providers at the Campus Health Service. “It can be very stressful to maintain good grades and commitments outside of school for students of every year, freshman or senior. But it can be very demanding for incoming freshman to adjust.”

One method Campus Health uses to identify depression at the UA is through its Health and Wellness Survey. According to the 2013 Survey, which included 3,055 UA respondents from all four class years, “50 percent of students experienced more-than-average stress or tremendous stress in the past school year,” and “13 percent of students have been diagnosed with depression.” The survey reported similar numbers for students diagnosed with anxiety, and that “32 percent of students indicated anxiety or depression made it somewhat or very difficult to do their work, study, go to class or get along with people.”

In response to these numbers, Campus Health advocates and workers highlighted the resources available to students suffering from stress, depression, or anxiety.

“We want to focus on a non-invasive way of encouraging people to speak out about their problems in and outside of school,” Kha said.

One such method is the Friend2Friend  service, which is offered through the UA’s Counseling and Psychological Services program. F2F gives students advice on how to support friends that could be having problems with drugs, alcohol, overwhelming schoolwork or depression. It also provides guidelines on how to approach a friend with a possible issue, how to address it initially and when to seek professional help if the problem gets serious.

The F2F service’s main goal is to prevent suicide, which is an objective shared by the Question, Persuade and Refer  program. QPR emphasizes the importance of questioning a friend about suicide, persuading them to avoid it and seek assistance and referring that person to professional help.

“We want to set up QPR workshops for faculty members, health workers, and other students on campus,” Kha said. “It’s crucial that they all get proper training and learn how to effectively seek out information without being intrusive.”

As the 2015 spring semester reaches its halfway point, thousands of undergraduates studying for classes, practicing instruments, attending clubs and researching for lab reports will confront problems of stress, anxiety and depression. Addressing these problems will be a question of how willing people are to carefully seek them out and how willing students are in sharing them.

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Follow Isaac Rounseville on Twitter.

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