In an attempt to end his life, a Princeton University first-year student ingested 20 pills in his room. A few days after in February 2012, he was asked by university officials to voluntarily withdraw from the school.
The student, who was evicted from the school with no refund, was told he would have to leave once he missed about three weeks of classes, said Lewis Bossing, senior attorney at Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, in an nj.com article.
Yet issues regarding mental health cannot withdraw from college campuses. About 30 percent of college students reported feeling “so depressed that it was difficult to function,” according to American College Health Association – National College Health Assessment’s 2011 survey.
In response, The Daily Targum gathered statistics to assess the state of Rutgers students’ mental health.
The results of the survey were shared with Mary Kelly, lead psychologist at Counseling, Alcohol (and other Drugs Assistance Program) and Psychiatric Services at Rutgers, and she provided her interpretation of the data via email.
Mental health is not just the absence of a mental disorder. World Health Organization defines it as an individual’s ability to realize their own potential, cope with the everyday stresses of life, work productively and fruitfully and make a contribution to their community.
The Targum surveyed 135 students, with 33 surveys distributed physically and 102 online. The survey encompassed topics such as stress, depression, eating disorders and drug use.
Out of students who answered the survey, 84 were female and 47 were male. Forty-three percent identified as liberal arts majors and forty percent as Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics majors. Ten students were business majors and three were public health majors.
While six students said they felt depressed daily, 46 students said they feel depressed “less than once a month,” 38 said “less than once a week,” 27 said “a few times a week” and 15 said “never.”
“I can tell you that according to the 2010 National College Health Assessment, 9.7 percent of Rutgers students who responded to the survey reported feeling so depressed in the past year that it was difficult to function, and 12.5 percent said that they had been diagnosed with depression,” Kelly said. “As such, your numbers look high, but again, it depends how the students you talked to defined depression.”
To the survey question about suicide, 20 percent of the students responded they have thought about suicide multiple times, while 58.5 percent said “never.”
In the case of Princeton University, the student filed a complaint in July 2012 with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights, according to the nj.com article.
The student, currently 20 years old, left Princeton for two semesters to secure a partial refund of his tuition, room and board and “to make it less of an issue for his record,” Bossing said in the nj.com article.
He returned in fall 2013 as a sophomore and is currently enrolled at Princeton, Bossing said.
University officials said they believed the student posed a direct threat to himself and was therefore encouraged to voluntarily withdraw, and the student would have to show six to nine months of “demonstrated stability” to return, according to the complaint.
The survey also asked students if they thought their use of social networks affected their mental health.
Kelly said she had seen references in research that suggest a correlation between social media use and depression — yet this correlation may not mean causation.
“It’s not clear whether depressed people use more social media or if social media use leads to depression,” she said. “Anecdotally, I’ve talked to many students who find social media to be a source of anxiety and stress, particularly if they are compulsive in their use to the point where it interferes with other important aspects of their lives, such as academics and relationships.”
Drug use was another component of the Targum survey. Eighty-nine of the 135 students refused to take drugs for treating depression, 12 students said they used alcohol and nine said they used marijuana.
“I think it is absolutely true that the majority of students do not use drugs,” Kelly said. ‘It’s also been demonstrated in the NCHA survey that many Rutgers students do not drink alcohol at all, and of those who do, two-thirds stop at three drinks or fewer.”