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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 Administrators & Staff

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 develop safe, regular stress reduction routines.  Model stress-management and self-care techniques within your department’s activities for students.

o Promote available stress reduction opportunities to students. Techniques such as meditation,27 biofeedback,28 and mindfulness29 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 and resources to help students manage their stress.

o Stressbusters – Host a free Stressbusters event for your club or organization. Schedule a session at your next event, class, program, meeting or special occasion, or learn about upcoming Stressbusters events by joining their listserv.

o Start your student meetings with “Highs and Lows” to remind them of funny events or stories from the week and relax before tending to your department’s business.

o Post, or encourage students to post, a daily inspirational quote or joke to your department’s facebook group, blog, or listserve as an easy way to reduce student stress.

o Use the five minutes at the beginning or end of your meeting to conduct a stress reduction exercise such as meditation or diaphragmatic breathing.30 For tips or downloadable MP3s, visit the NYU Relaxation Oasis.

o Recommend that students create a schedule in order to prioritize tasks. Poor planning is a common cause of excessive stress among students.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 Practice with time management can lead to better study habits, improved learning, and overall increased productivity.

Promote 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.32 As a staff 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.

Help students access resources. Offer resources and advice to facilitate students’ navigation of University departments and systems. A large university system can seem daunting or stressful to negotiate; your assistance could make all the difference to a student who is frustrated or confused.

Be accessible to students. Creating an approachable and welcoming environment 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.33

Encourage interactions from students who are quiet or shy. For a variety of reasons, some students are too shy or embarrassed to speak up during class or at campus activities. As an employee, consider reaching out to quiet or shy students in smaller group settings, or in 1:1 conversations. In the context of extracurricular activities, consider offering these students distinct responsibility within the activity. Meaningful student participation in extracurricular activities promotes a “sense of belonging” and feelings of community; strong social ties improve health outcomes among those with serious health problems and also have a preventive effect for healthy people.34

Participate in ACT institute. Being an NYU community member allows for ample opportunities to connect with a wide variety of cultural groups. Developing a deeper understanding on the multicultural diversity on our campus stimulates cross-cultural interactions and prepares students to effectively communicate across cultural boundaries. Stimulating cross-cultural interactions on a campus requires the efforts of all members of the university community.35 Sign up for a session online.

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

Responding to a student in need

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:

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

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

Social behavior: extreme withdrawal, dependency, irritability, hostility

Speech or writings: student alludes to problems, feeling worthless, excessive guilt, or 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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  21. Lin, S.T., Yang, P., Lai, C.Y., Su, Y.Y., Yeh, Y.C., Huang, M.F., & Chen, C.C. (2011). Mental health implications of music: Insight from neuroscientific and clinical studies. Harvard Review of Psychiatry, 19(1), 34 – 46.
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