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Mental Health / Depression

Students who suffer from depression or anxiety can experience many adverse effects on their academic and social lives and, consequently, are more likely to drop out of school or achieve lower grade-point averages.1 NYU’s award-winning systems and services to address mental health in the university community include a collaborative approach among NYU primary care, counseling services, and care management; routine screening for depression in all primary care appointments; and the 24-7 Wellness Exchange hotline and crisis response. As the mental health needs of college students increase, both in the number of students seeking services and the severity of the pathology,2 it is imperative that NYU continue to develop innovative approaches to engage students in necessary treatments.

Key Facts

  • Suicide is the third leading cause of death among 15-24 year olds.3
  • 22.5% of NYU students reported that anxiety had impacted their academic performance in the past 12 months.4
  • 55% of NYU students reported that emotional or mental difficulties had hurt their academic performance for one or more days in the past month.5
  • 59% of NYU students demonstrating symptoms of depression reported that problems resulting from these symptoms had made it difficult forthem to do their schoolwork, take care of things at home, or get along with other people.5
  • 17.9% of adults between the ages of 18 and 25 reported experiencing serious psychological distress in 2007.5
  • 8.9% of adults between the ages of 18 and 25 reported experiencing a major depressive episode within the past year.7
  • 90% of college or university counseling center directors in the United States report an increase in psychological problems among their students.7
  • The proportion of students, nationally, with a previous diagnosis of depression increased from 10% to 15% between 2000 and 2005.8
  • 75% of lifetime mental disorders have first onset by the typical college age range of 18-24.9

Suggestions for Faculty

This page is intended to be a resource containing suggestions for what you can do to help promote positive mental health and improve the recognition and treatment of anxiety, depression and other mental health disorders among NYU students.

Suggestions to promote positive mental health:

Encourage students to utilize university academic support services. Recommend that students utilize university academic support services such as the Academic Resource Center, the Writing Center, or the University Learning Center. Tutorial support can safeguard students from the consequences of stress.20 As a faculty member in a position of respect and authority, your willingness to speak openly and positively about supportive services could help eliminate perceived stigma or shame for some students needing help.

Talk about where students can go for help before they need help. At the beginning of the semester and during difficult times of the semester, like during mid-terms and finals, remind students that they can call the Wellness Exchange at 212-443-9999 or speak to a counselor at the Student Health Center. Presenting these resources in an open and nonjudgmental way will help students see you as an ally and make them aware of helpful resources.

Encourage students to develop safe, regular stress reduction routines. Techniques such as meditation,11 biofeedback12 and mindfulness13 have been shown to reduce the negative consequences associated with stress among students. NYU offers a number of stress reduction opportunities within and outside of the university community. Visit the Stress Resource Guide and LiveWellNYU for on-campus opportunities, information,  and resources to help students manage their stress.

Model stress-management techniques in your class. Use the five minutes before class begins to conduct a stress reduction exercise such as meditation or diaphragmatic breathing to help students prepare for an exam or class period. For tips or downloadable MP3s, visit the NYU Relaxation Oasis.

If there is any doubt about class expectations, provide additional review with clear expectations of course requirements to students at the beginning of the semester. Affording students a structured learning environment can allow them to feel more in control of the situation, which can decrease their levels of stress.14

Give consistent feedback to students and offer to meet to discuss their work so that they know how they’re performing in the course. Effective feedback can inspire the positive stress that propels students to act instead of the negative stress that impairs learning outcomes.15

Be accessible to students. Your role as a mentor or advisor can contribute to a student’s sense of belonging in the university community, which can positively impact his or her ability to cope effectively with stress.16 The Wasserman Center for Career Development has an extensive mentor network for students and faculty.

To help promote friendships in the classroom, encourage students to announce extracurricular events and ask for support in their outside endeavors. Students who are socially connected are more likely to remain in school and report satisfaction with their university.17 These strong social ties improve health outcomes among those with serious health problems and also have a preventive effect for healthy people.18 Participating in events outside of class together can help students build or strengthen social connections.

Get to know your students, and allow them to get to know you. Opportunities offered by faculty for relationship building are critical to easing students’ processes of adapting to the university setting.19 One example might be to start the first class of the semester with an icebreaker game, such as going around the room and asking each individual share something funny or unique about themselves; making sure to include yourself in the activity.

Participate in ACT institute. In making diversity a priority at NYU, the Center for Multicultural Education and Programs presents interactive training sessions, thought-provoking presentations, and innovative educational activities that enhance and encourage a deeper understanding of the multicultural nature of our campus community. Through diversity education, this program seeks to develop and create a sensitive, safe, respectful, and inclusive campus environment. The Administrators Cultural Training Institute (ACT-I) is a professional development opportunity for administrators and graduate students interested in issues of equity and education.

Become an LGBTQ Ally. Creating a university environment that is sensitive, safe, respectful and inclusive supports and encourages positive interpersonal interactions. Sign up for Safe Zoning training.

Responding to a student in need:

Email students with two unexplained absences from class. Two unexplained absences or frequently missed assignments can be signs of emerging emotional difficulties. Letting students know via email that you’ve noticed can be good way to show a student that you care and a first step in connecting them with necessary support services. The email could be as simple as: “I’ve noticed you’ve been absent from class multiple times. Are you ok? Please let me know if you want to talk or if I can be of any help to you.”

Be alert to signs of personal or psychological difficulties. If you notice any of the following signs, you can ask to meet privately with the student:

o Mood: extreme sadness, anger or anxiety, or mood swings

o Performance: concentration difficulties, deteriorating performance, unexplained absences or lateness

o Social behavior: extreme withdrawal, dependency, irritability, hostility

o Speech or writings: student alludes to problems, feeling worthless, excessive guilt, thoughts of death or suicide, or thoughts of hurting others or threats to others

For suggestions about how to effectively approach a student, visit the Wellness Exchange website or call 212-443-9999 to seek advice on how to address the situation.

mental health indicators

a) Engagement in mental health treatment among students who have seriously considered suicide

  • Data Source: ACHA #30J & #31A1-31B7
  • Survey Questions: Have you ever seriously considered suicide? & Within the last 12 months have you been diagnosed or treated by a professional for any of the following: anorexia; anxiety; ADHA; bipolar disorder; bulimia; depression; insomnia; other sleep disorder; OCD; panic attacks; phobia; schizophrenia; substance abuse or addiction; other addiction; other mental health condition?
  • Definition: of students who have seriously considered suicide within the last 12 months, proportion who have been treated with medication and/or psychotherapy within the last 12 months

b) Depression interfering with ability to function

  • Data Source: ACHA #30F
  • Survey Question: Have you ever felt so depressed that it was difficult to function?
  • Definition: proportion responding “in the last 2 weeks” or “in the last 30 days” or “in the last 12 months”

c) Negative impact on academic performance due to anxiety

  • Data Source: ACHA #45A3
  • Survey question: Within the last 12 months, have any of the following affected your academic performance: anxiety
  • Definition: proportion received lower-grade exam; received lower-grade course; received incomplete/dropped; or significant disruption thesis

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  2. Benton, S., Benton, S.L., Tsing, W.C., Newton, F.B., Robertson, J.M., & Benton, K.L. (2003). Changes in client problems: contributions and limitations from a 13-year study. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 34, 66-72.
  3. Xu, J., Kochanek, K.D., Murphy, S.L., & Tejada-Vera, B. (2010, May 20). Deaths: Final data for 2007. National Vital Statistics Reports, 58, 19.
  4. American College Health Association. (2009). American College Health Association - National College Health Assessment II Web Spring 2009 New York University Institutional Data Report. (2009). Hanover, MD: Author.
  5. Healthy Minds Study 2009 School Report: New York University.
  6. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Office of Applied Studies. (2008). Results from the 2007 national survey on drug use and health: national findings (NSDUH Series H-34, DHHS Publication No. SMA 08-4343). Rockville: MD.
  7. Gallagher, R.P. (2008). National survey of counseling center directors. Alexandria, VA: International Association of Counseling Services.
  8. National College Health Assessment spring 2006 reference group data report (abridged). (2007). Journal of American College Health, 55,195–206.
  9. Kessler, R.C., Berglund, P., Demler, O., et al. (2005). Lifetime prevalence and age-of-onset distributions of DSM-IV disorders in the national comorbidity survey replication. Archives of General Psychiatry, 62, 593–602.
  10. Parenting a College Student. University of Michigan. Retrieved 1/5/11 from:
  11. Dahlin, M., Joneborg, N. & Runeson, B. (2005) Stress and depression among medical students: A cross-sectional study. Medical Education, 260: 2521–2528
  12. Fehring, R.J. (1983). Effects of biofeedback-aided relaxation on the psychological stress symptoms of college students. Nursing Research. 32(6): 362-6.
  13. Warnecke, E., Quinn, S., Ogden, K., Towle, N. & Nelson, M.R. A randomised controlled trial of the effects of mindfulness practice on medical student stress levels. Medical Education, 45(4): 381–388
  14. Whitman, N.A., Spendlove, D.C., & Clark, C.H. (1987). Reducing Stress among Students. ERIC Digest. Association for the Study of Higher Education. ERIC Clearinghouse on Higher Education, Washington, DC.
  15. Whitman, N.A., Spendlove, D.C., & Clark, C.H. (1987). Reducing Stress among Students. ERIC Digest. Association for the Study of Higher Education. ERIC Clearinghouse on Higher Education, Washington, DC.
  16. Whitman, N.A., Spendlove, D.C., & Clark, C.H. (1987). Reducing Stress among Students. ERIC Digest. Association for the Study of Higher Education. ERIC Clearinghouse on Higher Education, Washington, DC.
  17. Öster, I., Svensk, A., Magnusson, E., Thyme, K., SjÕdin, M., ÅstrÖm, S., & Lindh, J. (2006). Art therapy improves coping resources: A randomized, controlled study among women with breast cancer. Palliative & Supportive Care, 4(1), 57-64. Retrieved June 28, 2011, from ProQuest Medical Library. (Document ID: 1456907141)
  18. Fehring, R.J. (1983). Effects of biofeedback-aided relaxation on the psychological stress symptoms of college students. Nursing Research. 32(6): 362-6.
  19. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC Guide To Strategies For Reducing The Consumption Of Energy Dense Foods. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; March 2010
  20. Parenting a College Student. University of Michigan. Retrieved 1/5/11 from:
  21. Gammon, J. & Morgan-Samuel, H. (2005). A study to ascertain the effect of structured student tutorial support on student stress, self-esteem and coping. Nurse Education in Practice, 5(3): 161-171.

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