Help for Depressed College Students

What happens if your child becomes severely depressed in college?

As parents we worry because we wouldn’t  be around to spot the symptoms. If my daughter, who attends college 2,500 miles away, started skipping classes, ignoring friends or losing weight because of depression I wouldn’t know unless she told me.

Colleges and universities offer mental health services, but research suggests that it’s often the students who need help the most, including those who are suicidal, who fail to seek it. Male students (no surprise) are less likely to reach out.

An innovative program called the National College Depression Partnership is trying to reverse this tide by reaching out to mentally ill college students. The success of the program, which has 20 participating colleges so far, is based on this reality: while most students are hesitant to book an appointment for a mental health issue, they aren’t shy about calling the campus clinic if they are experiencing migraines, the flu or other physical illnesses.

When students are seeking medical help on one of the 20 campuses, they are screened using this simple mental health questionnaire.

The initial results of the partnership have been wildly successful. More than 100,000 students have been screened and 2,000 have been identified as suffering from severe depression or some other mental illness. More than 90% of these students were in a treatment program within four week and they were typically functioning well within three months.

You can find the names of the 20 institutions, which include New York University, UCLA, Case Western Reserve and Skidmore College, here. I can only hope that many more colleges and universities join this effort – and soon.

Lynn O’Shaughnessy is the author of The College Solution and a college blogger at

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