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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 for them 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 Parents & Families

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

Suggestions to promote positive mental health:

Help your student maintain any mental health services they need when he or she is starting at NYU, transferring, or studying abroad. Your student should have any prescriptions that will need to be refilled and know how to find a counselor in the community where he or she will be living. The health insurance policy should cover whatever services your student will need while he or she is away from home. Consider working with your student to identify the anticipated stresses and strains that he or she may experience at college or while studying abroad and develop some coping strategies to assist should these stressors arise.

Familiarize yourself with developmental theories for college students. Think back to when your student was young. Did you read books and articles to help you understand the development of your infant, toddler, child, pre-teen, or teenager? Well, your student has not stopped developing. As a family member, a basic understanding of student development theory may help you to prepare for the changes that your student will undergo throughout the next few years. For suggested reading materials, visit the NYU Parent Resources' First Year Parents page.

Stay involved and stay connected.   Play an active role with your student by talking to them about their academic and social lives. Phone calls, text messages, and e-mails can be valuable communication channels to remain engaged, especially during the first few weeks and months of college life when students are most vulnerable and are at greatest risk of making high-risk decisions.

Familiarize yourself with the NYU academic calendar. Make a note of times in the semester in which your student may need extra support, such as during midterm or final exams. Send a care package or remind your student to engage in stress relief activities, especially at these critical times.

Be an active listener - lend an open ear when your student is feeling stressed or overwhelmed. Listen to what he or she says, as well as to what is not said (i.e., is there no mention of friends, social activities, etc?). Respect his or her feelings even if you don't understand exactly what he/she is going through. This will encourage your student to start talking and serve as a source of comfort when he or she is feeling overwhelmed.  While student’s increased independence and desire to make his or her own decisions, parents and families often continue to be trusted advisors. This provides a great opportunity to offer guidance and share values in an open, non-judgmental climate.27

Encourage your student to take advantage of stress reduction opportunities within and outside of the university community. Techniques such as meditation,28 biofeedback,29 and mindfulness30 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 for on-campus opportunities and resources to help students manage their stress.

Encourage your student to engage in self-care, such as healthy eating, regular exercise, and obtaining sufficient sleep.

Familiarize yourself university academic support services and refer your student as appropriate. NYU offers several 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. As a parent or family member, your willingness to speak openly and positively about supportive services could help eliminate perceived stigma or shame for some students needing help.

Advise your student to create a schedule in order to prioritize tasks. Students who see themselves as being in control of their time, a feature indicative of good time management, report experiencing less negative characteristics related to stress.31

Encourage your student to get involved with student groups. On college campuses (especially ones as large as NYU), there are countless options of clubs, organizations, and activities for students to join.  These can include volunteering, athletics, academics, music, and leadership opportunities. There is a group—and usually a position within each group—to fit every personality type and student. Getting involved on campus provides experience in an area of interest and can help your student find their niche in the University. Joining a group is also an excellent way to meet other students with similar interests, and these interests can serve as icebreakers when making new friends.

Get to know your student’s friends. Getting to know your student’s friends is an important way to connect. Peers have great influence on many college students – and your student is likely no exception. The process can be easier than it may seem at first glance—just ask about who they spend time with and visit if possible. Getting to know the important people in your student’s life will help you both feel more connected. The effort is well worth the reward.33

Encourage your student to resolve their own conflicts. Although conflict is inevitable, NYU offers a set of comprehensive resources to help students address disputes and other relationship problems. Students who are prepared “to prevent, manage, or resolve interpersonal conflicts without harming themselves or others”32 will be able to successfully navigate the entire spectrum of interpersonal relationships. Whenever possible, students should be encouraged to handle conflict on their own or with the help of University resources. Here are five tips they can utilize in conflict situations:

o Know the difference between your principles and your preferences.

o Review your expectations. Are you being realistic? Is the person capable of changing in the way you desire? Can you adapt to the situation or is it totally unacceptable?

o Listen! Hear the other person’s feelings as well as arguments. Don’t interrupt.

o Accept the right of the other person to a satisfactory solution to the problem. Recognize that this person has legitimate rights that must be respected.

o State your opinions and feelings frankly but calmly. Be assertive, not aggressive.

Encourage your student to seek help in resolving conflicts when needed. Sometimes, a conflict is too difficult for the parties involved to solve themselves. Emotions and irrationality can run high, especially in a roommate situation or a conflict among students living on the same residence hall floor. If your student is experiencing a roommate or hallmate-related issue, encourage your student to speak to the RA or Residence Hall Director. Additionally, Counseling and Wellness Services, the dean of your student’s school, and student affairs professionals are available to help students resolve conflicts or relationship problems.The University also has a Student Grievance Procedure for any NYU student who seeks to resolve any grievance involving an alleged violation directly affecting that student, by any member of the University community while acting in an official capacity (e.g. faculty member, administrator, staff member), of any of the written policies of the University or the school in which the student is enrolled.

Responding to a student in need

Become familiar with some of the common signs a person who may be having emotional troubles or feeling suicidal may demonstrate. If you notice any of the following signs, you may call the Wellness Exchange 212-443-9999 to seek advice on how to address the situation.

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

Share your concerns with your student. If you’ve noticed any concerning behaviors or changes in behavior, say something. Noticing changes in your students’s behavior is a healthy first step to finding them the help they need. While it may feel uncomfortable, it is really important to ask about any thoughts of suicide or self-harm. In responding to the answer, remember to listen without judgment, share your concern for them, and never ever dismiss or minimize any suicidal thoughts.33

Respond to concerning online posts. Social media and its relationship to suicide is a growing concern for suicide prevention and online safety organizations. Conversations about suicide take place on blogs, social networking sites and other online communities, and people sometimes post suicidal intent there as well. If you see your student talking about hurting or killing themselves online, the best thing to do is immediately offer support and resources. Post a comment that lets them know they are not alone, that you care, and that they need to call the Wellness Exchange 212-443-9999 (if your student is an NYU Student) or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK. If this person appears to be at imminent risk, meaning they have a method in hand or are in the process of harming themselves, please call the police. Try to remember that the person posting suicidal thoughts or intent is reaching out for help. Every threat should be taken seriously and replies should be compassionate and helpful.33

Connect your student to resources and encourage him or her to get help. If your student explains that there is an ongoing problem and it does not appear that the student will be able to deal with it by him/herself, you should recommend counseling to the student. An ongoing problem is anything that impairs the student’s well-being or school performance on a chronic, regular basis that you have no expectation will change in the short term; or an acute problem that has caused such significant impairment that makes you concerned for the student’s health or safety. Examples may include depression, severe homesickness, excessive anxiety or stress, an eating disorder, severe family conflicts, inability to study or concentrate, or drug or alcohol abuse.

To refer your NYU student to mental health services, tell them that the NYU Wellness Exchange:

o is devoted to helping students with personal difficulties

o offers walk-ins, short-term individual counseling, group counseling, and referrals

o is free of charge

o is staffed by professional counselors

o is confidential

o is easy to schedule an appointment: call 212-443-9999 or 212-998-4780. Or stop by for a walk-in (no appointment is necessary) during walk-in hours.

In urgent cases, keep the following steps in mind:

o Don't be sworn to secrecy. Say that you need to talk with someone to make sure they are safe.

o If the person is acutely suicidal, they may do something right away. If you are physically with them, do not leave them alone. Have someone else promptly call 911 and then call NYU Public Safety 212-998-2222 or 911.

o If the situation is not an immediate emergency, refer the person to Counseling and Wellness Services 212-998-4780 or the Wellness Exchange 212-443-9999. Tell the person you will make the call and explain the situation.

o If you have any questions about someone in trouble, please call Counseling and Wellness Services at 212-998-4780 or the Wellness Exchange at 212-443-9999.

o For after-hours emergencies, call the Wellness Exchange at 212-443-9999 or NYU Public Safety at 212-998-2222.

Be encouraging if your student is frightened or skeptical of mental health treatment. If necessary, explain that counseling doesn’t mean someone is crazy or weak and that many students seek Counseling Services while at NYU. Acknowledge that it may be a difficult step to take, and recognize that the student likely has ambivalent feelings about asking for help.33 Let your student know that you support his or her decision to get help, but respect the student’s decision whether or not to go. Sometimes students initially reject counseling but take the step later – particularly if the signs of distress do not change over time.

If you are concerned or worried about your NYU student, call the Wellness Exchange at 212-443-9999. If the student does not agree to go to counseling, and you continue to be concerned about them, reach out to the Wellness Exchange yourself to seek advice on next steps. The Wellness Exchange is a 24/7 hotline that centrally links all of the university’s student life services and offices and puts students in touch with professionals who can help them address day-to-day challenges as well as other health-related concerns including medical issues, academic stress, depression, sexual assault, anxiety, alcohol and other drug dependence, sexually transmitted infections, and eating disorders. The Wellness Exchange can provide assistance in both emergency and non-emergency situations.


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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