by Erica Riba and Diana Cusumano

The Jed Foundation's JED Campus advisors, Erica Riba, LCSW and Diana Cusumano, LHMC, NCC will talk about depression in college students today and how the JED Campus program and other outside resources can help those who are struggling and learn skills to reach out to others.
The World Health Organization (WHO) reported that of all illnesses, depression is the leading cause of ill health and disability worldwide. According to the latest estimates from WHO, more than 300 million people are now living with depression. Depression and anxiety are prevalent problems in colleges across the country. During college, students experience many firsts, including a new lifestyle, friends, roommates, exposure to a new culture and experiences. Students may struggle if they can't manage these firsts. If students aren't prepared to cope, they can become easily susceptible to depression and anxiety. 
Depression is a medical condition that can affect a student's ability to work, study, interact with peers, or take care of themselves. Symptoms of depression may include: difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much, appetite changes, withdrawing from participating in activities once enjoyed, feelings of sadness, hopelessness, unhappiness, and difficulty concentrating on school work. Symptoms of depression can also leads to thoughts of suicide. 
Stigma associated with mental illness, can be a significant barrier to seeking treatment. Some students might not seek help because of concerns over confidentiality and finances. If you or a loved one are struggling with depression, there are many resources and supports available. 
The best place for a student to start if they are feeling down or need someone to talk to is to reach out to the on-campus counseling center. If your college doesn't have a counseling center or there is a long waitlist, ask a trusted adult such as a professor, career counselor or RA for help getting a referral to a therapist in the community. 
There are also many hotlines and online resources available:

  • The National Suicide Prevention Hotline (800) 273-TALK, which isn't just a crisis line; students can get advice and have someone to talk to. 
  • Crisis text line is a free 24/7 confidential text message service for people in crisis. Text HOME to 741741 in the United States.
  • ULifeline is an online resource for college mental health and has a self-evaluator available to connect students to resources on their campus
  • Half of Us features inspirational interviews with artists and athletes along with information about mental health. A screening tool is also available.

There are things you can do to decrease symptoms of sadness, depression, low motivation, etc. it is important to take care of yourself such as getting enough sleep, eating well, and avoiding caffeine and excessive drinking. Social media use is also linked to depression from undermining self-esteem, to sleep deprivation and social isolation as teenagers and young adults are spending much less time connecting with their peers in person.  
The Jed Foundation (JED) is a nonprofit that exists to protect emotional health and prevent suicide for our nation's teens and young adults. We partner with high schools and colleges to strengthen their mental health, substance abuse and suicide prevention programs and systems. We're equipping teens and young adults with the skills and knowledge to help themselves and each other. 
JED launched a new campaign, developed in partnership with Ad Council AFSP and Droga5, to empower young adults to help friends who are struggling with mental health issues. serves as a great new resource that features tutorial videos, information on warning signs, conversation starters, tips on how to sustain a conversation around mental health, and personal story videos from inspiring influencers. 
JED Campus is an initiative of The Jed Foundation designed to guide schools through a collaborative process of comprehensive systems, programs and policy development with customized support to build upon existing student mental health, substance abuse and suicide prevention efforts.. Click to learn more!
If you are interested in promoting mental health on campus, there are many ways to get involved:

  • Educate yourself - Learn to recognize if you or someone you know is in distress and what to do
  • Know the numbers and resources! Be ready to help yourself or a friend. Save the important #s listed above in your phone
  • Be aware of resources available at your school and in the community
  • Talk about mental health with friends and family
  • Organize an event at your school or in community to raise awareness. For example, consider asking senior leaders and counseling center staff to hold a screening day focused on depression via National Depression Screening Day each semester
  • Look at the calendar to see when suicide prevention day, world mental health day, and mental health awareness month takes places to do campaigning, messaging, and programming around help-seeking and giving
  • Ask your college to become a JED Campus :
  • Tell your high school about Set to Go
  • Encourage your friends to join you in getting involved
  • Spread the word and follow us!  

Watch the corresponding webinar: Depression Among College Students 

About the authors: 

DianaErica.PNGDiana Cusumano, LMHC, NCC is a campus advisor at The Jed Foundation. She worked in higher education for 12 years gaining experience in college counseling, student affairs, and academic services before joining JED. She is licensed mental health therapist and registered yoga instructor. Diana holds a B.A. degree in psychology from Central Connecticut State University and a M.S. degree in Mental Health Counseling from Pace University. 

Erica Riba, LCSW is a campus advisor at The Jed Foundation. She is a licensed clinical social worker. She previously worked as a therapist at Eastern Michigan University and Wayne State University's Counseling & Psychological Services. Erica earned a B.A. in Elementary Education from Michigan State University and received an M.S.W. from The University of Michigan.