College is the time of everyone’s life that we all look forward to and the shift not only happens at a social level but also at a psychological level. Students that are resilient, exhibit good stress management, and have a positive explanatory style are best equipped to cope with the demands of college life (Sossah, 2015).
But, other students who cannot cope up with the changes undergo a lot of emotional and psychological trauma which are often undisclosed. These issues, accelerated by broad societal expectations, leads to the variegated mental health issues faced by college students (Henriques, 2015).
A major challenge in handling college students’ issues is the heterogeneity of the population. Students with mental health issues are often termed “vulnerable” (WHO, 2010). These students are also subjected to discrimination and stigma. Many people who are involved in higher education in colleges suggest that many students experience mental health problems at this stage of life than in the past (Rana et al, 1990). The importance of cultivating good mental health among the college students is enormous as most mental disorders have their primary incidence between the age of 18 and 25.
The prevalence rate of depression among the college students around the world is 7-15%. The average onset is also during adolescence and reaches its peak at college age. Depression in college students often leads to suicidal ideation.
Another important problem with the problem of depression among these students is the perception of situations around them. The normative perceptions about the mood of the students which can be measured by the help of the existing depression theories like Beck’s Depression theory and the Depressive Realism theory. The student’s perceived mood can be an underestimation or overestimation of his/her situations. As said earlier, the college students undergo a number of shifts in their lifestyle as they begin college.
To handle them efficiently, in addition to their own resilience, the students need to have a healthy social support environment. This comprises of their immediate family members, friends and other peers in the college. The support gives them the reassurance about the ‘purpose’ of living and prevents any overestimation of the crisis situation.
The causes of depression are too many to narrow down exhaustively. The causes have to be examined before the solution for depression is sought. The following causes are the common reasons for a college student to get into depression or any other related mental health problems. They are:
- Correlates of depression with other Physiological activities
- Peer Pressure and Parental Pressure on Academic Performance
- Communication in the Family Environment and Social Pressure
- Gender Discrimination and Stereotypes
- Sexual abuse and other drug abuses
- Suicidal thoughts
- Irregular Sleep and eating patterns.
Correlates of Depression in the College Environment
The primary correlate of depression is the chronological age of the individual. This is due to the simple reason that older college students face more stressful situations like marriage, economy, graduation and employment. But this can also be the vice versa when the older students are more used to such demands of the society thereby their resilience (the ability to cope up with stress) is higher and better. In a college atmosphere, freshman year students tend to be more apprehensive and not depressive whereas those in the third year of college tend to be worried and depressed about the perspective in the future. The students should learn to prioritize the problems and the possible solutions. The correlates between the satisfaction with the study major and depression levels have been found significant. Thus, it is very important that the students choose majors which they are confident with. The college environment should be supportive and friendly without any apparent pressure and negative environment.
Peer Pressure and Parental Pressure on Academic Performance
With respect to the college environment, the positivity and lesser academic pressure are also preferred over colleges where the academic pressure and peer control is higher. Academic performance is given utmost importance in college days in few countries. In addition to all the crisis and demands, the academic performance is considered as another burden among the college students. This is the major cause for depression among the college students. A Recent study found that students with low academic records are marked as the ‘vulnerable’ in the colleges. This leads to a sense of inferiority and worthlessness among the students. Most of the countries, academic performance is equated with the intelligence of the students. Therefore, poor performance in academics implies that the student is not intelligent or creative. This should be dealt in an efficient manner in order to protect the sense of ‘self’ with the students. The academically dull students should be encouraged in other activities in college as a boost for their self-image in college. They can be directed towards activities which are not very academically oriented. Improvement can be expected from these students with respect with the other activities.
Comparison amongst peers in terms of appearance is another reason for depression with college students. The correlation between physical appearances like the attire they wear to college, the Body Image (especially with girls) is high in the western countries. The changeover with age happens not only psychologically but also physically and if the grown spurt is unfavorable for the individual appearance-wise, the students tend to over-estimate the importance to outward appearances and attractiveness of an individual. Proper counselling should be given to these students explaining them the process of over-estimation of such trivial things and how positive energy should be directed towards a betterment of their lifestyle.
Communication in the Family Environment and Social Pressure
The process of venting out is crucial in the time of crisis. The students feel the urge to communicate their feelings to others. The other individual needs to have high empathy to understand the feelings of the college student with the troubles faced by him during the course of time. For example, freshman year students face issues in accessing the assistances available at their colleges. The navigation to the new environment and the other resources should be made with the help of the senior students. For this to happen, the communication between the two batches of the students should be cordial and easy. This can be attained with the aid of the college management which should bridge the gap between the batches. This should facilitate the communication.
Gender Discrimination and Stereotypes
The discrimination between the male and the female students often lead to depression. The discrimination also can be based on the ethnic origin. All these discrimination gives the feeling of ‘outcast’ or ‘left out’ in his/her college life. They also indirectly make the student indulge in drug abuse activities. The students go to the extent of anything for the acceptance of their peers. Other discrimination includes the discrimination in terms of family background, race and financial situation of the family. The stereotyping behaviour should be controlled at the university level. The students should be educated and awareness should be spread the control of any discrimination behaviour. Students can be brought together as a group in which they can interact with one another and share the college space as positively as possible.