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Friday, September 3, 2010

Depression at the Undergraduate Level

A couple days ago, I attended a teaching workshop that focused on issues facing current undergraduate students. One reoccurring theme was that today's students suffer from stress and depression much more than earlier generations. Some of the causes could be heavier workloads, too many other things taking up their time (cell phone, internet, etc.), not taking care of themselves physically (sleep, diet, exercise), and lack of ability to deal with emotions.

A lot of time was spent discussing what the signs are for depression and what can be done to help, such as making students aware of the issues in the first place, knowing who to call for help on campus, and being sympathetic.

Although it was interesting, I was left feeling even more confused on how to deal with these types of situations. How do we as teachers (i.e., not trained psychologists, psychiatrists, etc.) tell the difference between a student who is just having a rough day from one who is truly suffering? What about students who try to take advantage of such situations (for example, I went to school with someone who's "grandmother" died 3 times - all during exam times)? How are we supposed to know when to just lend a sympathetic ear, or when a student needs more than that?

Has anyone else been to a workshop like this one? Did you get any concrete advice?

Has anyone had to deal with such a situation in their classroom or lab? If so, then what did you do? Did you feel you did the right thing?

In a more general sense - do you believe that more people suffer from depression these days, or is it just more accepted/more diagnosed?

If anyone is interested in seeing more of what was discussed during the workshop, one of the speakers has his PowerPoint slides available here for download.