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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 Student Leaders

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:

Promote relaxation, stress-management and self-care opportunities within your organizations and at events. There are a lot of fun, free opportunities and resources to help students relax and de-stress within and outside of the university community. Check out the Stress Resource Guide and LiveWellNYU for a listing of upcoming opportunities and events.

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 weekly meetings with “Highs and Lows” to remind each other of funny events or stories from the week and relax before tending to your organization’s business.

o Encourage members to post a daily inspirational quote or joke to your club or organization’s Facebook group, twitter account, blog, or listserv as an easy way to reduce members’ stress.

o Encourage students take to advantage of stress reduction opportunities within and outside of the university community. Techniques such as meditation,27 biofeedback,28 and mindfulness29 have been shown to reduce stress among students.

o Use the five minutes at the beginning or end of you 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. Practice with time management can lead to better study habits, improved learning, and overall increased productivity.

o Plan study breaks for your friends, peers, or members of your organization. Consider co-organizing a de-stress event within your Hall Council or student government.

•  Help connect students to resources. Advise students to consult 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. Your willingness to speak openly and positively about supportive services could help eliminate perceived stigma or shame for some students needing help.

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 club meetings. As a student leader, consider reaching out to quiet or shy students in smaller group settings, or in 1:1 conversations. In the context of student organizations or clubs, consider offering these members distinct responsibility within the organization. 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.31

Host events that empower your peers to resolve conflicts or exit unhealthy relationships. Although conflict is inevitable, providing students with comprehensive resources to address disputes and other relationship problems can positively influence their ability to communicate and to deal with conflict effectively.32 The Health Promotion Office sponsors educational opportunities, through workshops and tablings, for students facilitated by student leaders on the full range of topics addressed by the Health Promotion Office, including interpersonal relationship issues.

Use your leadership within a club or organization to create a safe space for your peers. Be open and direct about the fact that you serve as a resource to your peers, and club events and meetings are a safe environment to have discussions, ask questions, and seek help.

Enroll in Action Zone Training. Creating a university environment that is sensitive, safe, respectful and inclusive supports and encourages positive interpersonal interactions. Sign up for Action Zone training.

Establish a “buddy system” within your organization. Over 75% of students, nationally, said they would turn to friends if they were struggling,34 and over half of NYU students expressed interest in receiving information about how to help others in distress.33 Consider establishing a “buddy system” within your organization to provide ongoing support. For guidance about how to have a “courageous conversation” with someone who needs support, visit the Student Health Center website or call the Wellness Exchange 212-443-9999 to seek advice. Assisting a friend or loved one in distress can be emotionally taxing on the person trying to help; make sure to model positive mental health actions and contact the Wellness Exchange 212-443-9999 if you want to talk.

Encourage friends, peers, and club members to announce alcohol-free events through the club’s listserv, Facebook group, Twitter, or at the weekly meeting. For instance, if a club member is also involved with an on-campus singing group, encourage that particular member to announce his/her upcoming performances. If a club member is on a sports team, ask him/her to announce upcoming games and fundraisers.

Partner with NYU clubs, such as Active Minds. Active Minds is a national organization that develops and supports student-run mental health awareness, education, and advocacy groups on college campuses. The mission of the NYU chapter is to destigmatize mental health disorders by promoting open, enlightened discussion of mental health. Through campus-wide events and national programs, Active Minds aims to remove the stigma that surrounds mental health issues, and create a comfortable environment for an open conversation about mental health issues on campuses throughout North America.

Make your groups’ voices heard regarding health and mental health by participating on the Student Health Advisory Board, a subcommittee of the Student Senators Council, and/or bringing issues to them. 


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 can ask to talk 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.

Take the signs seriously. Ask to talk to the student and say that you are concerned. Point out the signs you’ve noticed. Be willing to listen. Don’t judge or give lots of advice or try to cheer up the student. 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.34

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 social networking sites, and people sometimes post suicidal intent there as well. If you see that a student is 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 they are an NYU student) or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (for non-NYU students). 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.34

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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