College Spotlight on Student Depression
Faculty, administrators look for early clues to depression
The following article was written by Matt Krupnick of McClatchy Newspapers, and was published in the Albuquerque Journal on April 22, 2007.
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Berkeley, Calif...The numbers are startling: Four of every 10 college students have been so depressed at some point in the past year, that they were unable to function.
At the University of California at Berkeley, where a 2004 study revealed widespread depression
among graduate students, counselors are asking university employees to step in and help when they see signs of mental illness. They worry that disturbing rants or essays could erupt into violence like Monday's Virginia Tech shootings.
With statistics on depression, mental illness and suicide climbing higher on college campuses everywhere, administrators and counselors are searching for ways to prevent catastrophes.
"Now these are problems for the campus as a whole," said Jeffrey Prince, director of the university's counseling and psychological services. "This is no longer something that can be addressed through counseling services."
In Virginia, faculty members told reporters that shooter Cho Seung-Hui turned in disturbing schoolwork that led them to report him to Virginia Tech's counseling center. Berkeley instructors are being trained to react in the same way: ask counselors for advice if a student seems depressed or violent.
The training includes overcoming obstacles such as the stigma of mental troubles, heavy faculty workloads and a feeling among some professors that such intimate conversations with students are too awkward. Administrators are taking mental health seriously enough, however, to consider evaluating professors partly on how well they help students with such issues.
"I don't feel like they are ready," said chemistry professor Heino Nitsche, the co-chairman of a university committee on student mental health. "They need some profound training." Professors, students and experts agree that mental illness has become more of a problem at colleges everywhere. Some say it's partly a result of antidepressant drugs making college more accessible to affected students. Other say parents put too much pressure on their children to achieve academic success.