The Healthy Ways to Treat Male College Student Depression
When most people think of college, they think of a time of freedom and self-discovery on the journey to adulthood and personal growth. Unfortunately, that time in college is not as pleasant for many. In recent years, there’s been an incredible amount of young people diagnosed with depression, anxiety or some other type of mental health issue. In fact, research shows that nearly 1 in 5 college students are affected by depression.
There are approximately 20 million students in colleges and universities all over the United States, which means approximately 4 million of them are dealing with depression. For young men in college, that depression can have disastrous effects, especially considering only about 7 percent of males are getting professional care.
Due to a variety of factors like the negative social stigma around men’s mental health, lack of proper resources for those suffering from depression and the incredible amount of stress college students are under these days, young men are four times more likely to kill themselves than women. As a whole, men aged 20-24 commit suicide twice as often as the opposite sex.
So what can be done about the issue? What can we do to help our college students deal with their depression? Read on!
What’s Causing This?
There are a variety of factors that play into the high rate of depression among college students. Many experts attribute that increased rate to a wide variety of things like genetics, cyberbullying and even smoking or vaping. In short, there are no conclusive answers, but all of these factors are clearly big contributors to the problem.
According to a Cyberbullying Research Center study of teenagers starting in the early 2000s, nearly 30 percent of students reported dealing with some form of cyberbullying. Those rates don’t decrease out of high school when a kid goes off to college, away from the support network of their parents.
Keith Herman, a professor in the MU College of Education, conducted a study that found academic performance is heavily linked with a student’s mental and social well-being. “Plenty of research before this study has shown that children who struggle in elementary school are more likely to experience feelings of frustration and worthlessness, which can put them at greater risk for depression,” Herman said of his study. “Now we’re finding that there is a link, with clues that a child’s social life can be impacted by their success in class.”
In fact, a University of Michigan study found that students dealing with depression are twice as likely as their peers to drop out. That academic pressure often leads to another major issue linked with college student depression: Drug abuse. More and more college students are seeking chemical help to stay up late, study and get the grades they’re hoping for.
Two of the most often abused drugs among college students, Ritalin and Adderall, both have side effects linked with depression. According to the National Center for Health Research, an estimated 2.5 million American have been prescribed study medications and more than 50,000 students who had those prescriptions were approached by other students about selling those drugs.
One study of students at Bates College, a small Maine liberal arts college, found that one in every three students had abused Adderall at some point. That’s an astounding rate of abuse for young, developing minds.
Other experts like Tayana Panova link the higher levels of depression to mobile phone addiction. “Handheld devices, with their countless applications and entertainment options and their constant presence at our fingertips, make it easier than ever before to disconnect with the problems [and] stresses of reality, and avoid actively engaging with them,” said Tayana Panova.
“It may be that individuals with higher anxiety/depression use [phone] devices more intensively,” she said, “or that using devices more intensively can eventually lead to the development of anxiety/depression. Or it can mean that there is a cyclical relationship.” Panova concluded.
How To Recognize Depression in Male College Students
Just like with any other person suffering from mental health issues, college-aged males need the support of their friends, family and loved ones to get control of their illness. Studies over the past few years have shown that male college students as a whole underestimated their levels of depression. To compound the issue, the same study showed that those who aren’t depressed aren’t as good as noticing warning signs of others dealing with depression.
Some common symptoms of depression in college-aged males are erratic sleeping patterns, lack of interest in activities they used to enjoy, being easily irritated and angry and engaging in unhealthy habits like smoking and drinking.
It’s also common for young men not to seek professional help for their struggles due to a variety of societal factors. Jill E. Daino, LCSW, a Talkspace therapist with a private practice in New York City, said that coping behaviors for depression in men like heavy drinking or unfulfilling casual sex may go unnoticed, or even celebrated.
She said that men “may know they’re not feeling well, they may know that ‘hey, maybe I’m drinking a little too much,’ or ‘maybe I’m using drugs,’ or ‘maybe I’m sleeping around a lot.’ But for men sometimes that’s seen as an accomplishment, that’s not seen as a bad thing.”
The key thing someone can do to deal with depression in college-aged males is to seek professional help for their issues.