WGBH has launched a new four-part radio series titled “Stressed and Depressed on Campus” in response to a study by researchers at Boston University and the University of Michigan, which revealed 36 percent of college students struggle with depression.
The Healthy Minds Study, conducted during the 2018-19 school year, aims to provide “a detailed picture of mental health and related issues in college student populations,” according to the study’s website. The study was led by Sarah Lipson, an assistant professor at the School of Public Health, and Daniel Eisenberg, a professor of Health Management and Policy at University of Michigan’s School of Public Health.
“I also like to think of Healthy Minds’ data as a way for campuses to identify opportunities to invest in student mental health programming,” Lipson said, “including prevention and wellness initiatives.”
WGBH has released three episodes so far in the four-part series, which launched on Nov. 18. Each episode focuses on the story of an individual, using facts and statistics from the study as context.
Kirk Carapezza, managing editor and correspondent for higher education at WGBH News, said he hopes the series will document the difficulties students face at this moment in time. He said these difficulties begin before students reach college.
“When families are trying to control every single thing about their kids life,” Carapezza said, “it sets a certain level of expectations for the kids before they’re even able to think about college.”
The study found the rate of anxiety and depression among college students has doubled in the past 10 years.
Carapezza said the series not only gets the conversation about mental health started, but it also discusses solutions.
“We made a concerted effort to not just focus on the problem, but focus on solutions, what colleges might do to alleviate the pressure on kids,” Carapezza said.
Sandro Galea, the dean of SPH, said that while many think of mental health as drastically different than physical health, the two are more connected than people realize.
“We often think of mental illness as a more or less individual concern, something to handle on one’s own, or with the help of a therapist,” Galea said. “But mental health is shaped by the same forces that shape physical health. Our income, neighborhood, community networks, education level, proximity to harmful forces like racism and misogyny, such factors deeply influence the health of our bodies and our minds.”
Galea said she believes progress can be made with more discussion about mental health.
“We should have a conversation that emphasizes the true causes of mental health struggles,” Galea said, “while building awareness of just how often these struggles occur among populations.”
BU students in particular have been openly critical about the lack of help with mental health issues they feel the university offers.
Michelle Anne Cohen, a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences, said while many people are unaware of the resources provided by BU, the ones they do know of are inadequate.
“It’s mostly about the quality of care,” Cohen said. “Student Health Services isn’t actually addressing or adequately treating any of the problems brought to them.”
Shaina Sikka, a junior in CAS, said she believes the absence policy at BU may be unfair to those who suffer from mental health problems.
“BU’s absence policy is inconsistent. Some classes require a doctor’s note for even one absence,” Sikka said. “What if I want to take a mental health day? There should always be some serious thoughts behind these policies… it’s just making life a lot harder for those who are already struggling.”
Neeharika Munjal, a sophomore in the Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, said that BU has room for improvement, even among the things they do well.
“I think BU is doing an alright job with the mental health resources on this campus,” Munjal said. “But one thing they can do better is to bring more awareness to what they offer.”