By Ben Everett | Sports Writer
Depression and anxiety among college students is a growing epidemic. According to the American Psychological Association, one-third of college students felt depressed in some capacity in 2013. Healthline reports that suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15 to 34 year olds, and that 8.3 percent of 15 to 24 year olds have had serious thoughts about suicide.
Dr. Jim Marsh, executive director for Baylor Counseling Services, said mental health issues usually arise among youth around the time most would be attending college.
“The typical college age is also the age when most mental health concerns surface,” Marsh said. “So whether you’re in college or you’re not in college, this age group is roughly the time when anxiety or depression or other types of concerns are going to surface.”
Marsh said a lack of sleep can be a catalyst in depression among college students.
“College students just don’t get enough sleep,” Marsh said. “Study after study has shown that one of the affects of a lack of sleep is feeling depressed.”
Marsh said students should get at least eight hours of sleep per night and go to bed at the same time every night in order to combat mental health issues. Marsh also said consistent exercise and a healthy diet are ways to maintain mental health.
Another reason many students feel symptoms of depression is due to stress stemming from coursework.
Marsh said the feeling of being overwhelmed with no end in sight is a thinking trap many students fall into.
“Another cause is overall feeling stressed, even to the point of being overwhelmed. That can be from courseload or work or financial issues,” Marsh said. “It’s a sense of just feeling overwhelmed that often leads to depression. That sense that ‘I can’t get all this done, and whats going to happen if I don’t get everything done?'”
An anonymous Baylor student* said she thinks the nature of college lends itself to mental health issues.
“I definitely think college is kind of a breeding ground for depression,” she said. “Just because you’re under this constant level of stress, and you don’t have parents or anyone to help you. You’re very much independent. So students start putting all of this weight on themselves. All of this stuff comes together, and it makes us very very susceptible to depression or anxiety.”
In today’s society, technology and social media are major time consumers in people’s daily lives that could also hinder positive thinking.
According to Statista, the average daily time spent on social media in 2017 was over two hours, and that number has increased since then.
A Baylor student* who struggled with depression said social media often made her symptoms worse.
“Social media was not causing my depression, but it was a source of negative thoughts that were driving it,” she said. “I would scroll through Instagram and be like ‘Wow, all these people are living these beautiful lives, and I feel awful.’ It makes you feel worse.”
Marsh echoed those sentiments, saying that comparing your life to what others post on social media can be disheartening.
“I think it leads to a lot of comparison,” Marsh said. “Social media is great for a lot of things, but I think it also creates this culture of comparison. When you start to do that, it can lead down that road to depression.”
On March 6, Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love wrote a piece for the Player’s Tribune about his experience with anxiety and having a panic attack in the middle of an NBA basketball game. Toronto Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan and Washington Wizards forward Kelly Oubre have also opened up about their struggles with depression this year.
The Baylor student said her family was very understanding of her struggles, but she knows others who were not as lucky.
“I got really lucky in that I have a family that was never really judgmental of my problems. I have friends who have dealt with mental illness who were told by their families that they were making it up in their heads.”
Marsh said the normalization of mental health issues would be beneficial to those who suffer from it.
“The more we can talk about, the more we can normalize it, the better,” Marsh said. “Mental health concerns affect a lot of people. I’m all for having those conversations and making it a part of the public discussion.”
Baylor offers a service called Therapist Assisted Online that students can use for free to help with anxiety or depression.
Additionally, if you have thoughts about suicide, please call the suicide hotline at 1-800-273-8255.
*Indicates name change for anonymity of sexual assault victims.