The Medical Minute

May 5, 2022

By: Deborah Greubel, DNP, APRN-CNP
MBU
 chief health officer

College can be a very exciting time. Students graduate from high school, set sights on college, and move away from home, many for the very first time. However, the college experience for some may be overwhelming.

First-year students most often set out to join clubs and meet new people, but many have a difficult transition into college life. Classes become intense, hours are spent in the library, and the social life that the student imagined turns into an angst-producing difficult year.

Students sometimes become dismayed and depressed with a lack of social life. And, moreover, the pandemic has taken whatever semblance of normal college life there is and turned it upside down.

On any college campus across the country, faculty would be surprised to find that 51% of college students are affected by anxiety. Another 41% are affected by depression. Twenty-four percent of the student population of a college campus take some type of psychotropic drug. Yet only half of these students will get treatment during their college years.

It is important for faculty to recognize the signs of psychological distress and work with the student engagement office and counseling services to assist students during times of difficulty. Sometimes it is very clear when a student is in need, but many times a student’s distress may be less obvious. Here are some symptoms to look for:

Symptoms of anxiety and/or depression:

  • Trouble getting to class
  • Poor academic performance and preparation (especially a change in previous performance)
  • Poor hygiene (marked change)
  • Procrastination
  • Mood changes
  • Nervousness
  • Poor attendance
  • Listlessness, decreased energy, falling asleep in class
  • Weight loss/gain
  • Changes in behavior

If you notice these things in a student, encourage the student to speak to a mental health professional. MBU Counseling and Psychological Services provides consultation to professors and staff who have concerns about a student in distress. They can be reached at 540-887-7281 or via email at: nkuley@marybaldwin.edu or mward@marybaldwin.edu. Other campus resources include the office of Student Engagement at 540-887-7281.

If you are dealing with a student who appears to be at risk of harming themselves or others, contact the MBU professional on-call at 540-887-7000 or 911. Don’t let the subtle signs of depression and other mental health issues go unnoticed or untreated.

If you or someone you know needs help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or text their crisis text line. 

About the Author

Dr. Deborah Greubel is the chief health officer of Mary Baldwin University. She has been a licensed nurse practitioner and professor of medicine since 1998. A decorated Naval officer, she has also directed and helped found numerous medical-related programs at various U.S. universities—including MBU’s doctor of nursing practice program.