Meera Menon, MD | The Ohio State University


College has been called “the age of depression.” It’s no surprise that depression is so prevalent in college students. The symptoms of depression are most commonly seen first in the early teen years and increase through the college years. College brings with it new sources of stress, and more easy access to unhealthy coping mechanisms like alcohol, all while students are adjusting to life beyond the familiar support systems of home. Those and other factors can trigger depression. The consequences for this population are significant. Depression is the number one risk factor for suicide, and suicide is the second-leading cause of death among college students.

College students are required to navigate a complicated social structure when managing their platonic and romantic relationships, and these social factors can have a huge impact on their emotional health. There is a link between college students’ reported incidences of casual sex and their psychological distress.1 On the other hand, perceived social support has been shown to moderate anxiety and depression in college students with perfectionist tendencies.2

Emerging adults are particularly vulnerable to things such as drug and alcohol abuse as well as adverse current events. Alcohol use in conjunction with impulsivity has been shown to affect how depressive symptoms affect suicide proneness in college students.3 After the Boston Marathon bombing and aftermath events, there were sharp increases in college students’ primary and mental health care visits for depression and anxiety.4 Exposure to physical danger can take an emotional toll on everyone, and college students are no exception.

To address this urgent mental health issue, the College Mental Health Task Group, started in February 2011, is working to identify resources available to researchers, clinicians and educators working in the field of college mental health. In addition, the Task Group members have identified college depression education outreach programs at their NNDC Centers of Excellence with the potential to be disseminated and implemented at other member centers. Examples include the Depression on College Campuses initiative, a conference which began in 2001 at the University of Michigan, and Campus MindWorks, a web-based initiative developed at the University of Michigan Depression Center and supported by the U.S. Department of Education. The College Mental Health Task Group is currently comprised of 66 members representing 18 NNDC Centers of Excellence.

1. Bersamin, M. M., Zamboanga, B. L., Schwartz, S. J., Donnellan, M. B., Hudson, M., Weisskirch, R. S., Kim, S. Y., Agocha, V. B., Whitbourne, S. K., & Caraway, S. J. (2013). Risky business: Is there an association between casual sex and Mental Health among emerging adults? The Journal of Sex Research, 51(1), 43–51.
2. Zhou, X., Zhu, H., Zhang, B., & Cai, T. (2013). Perceived social support as moderator of perfectionism, depression, and anxiety in college students. Social Behavior and Personality: an International Journal, 41(7), 1141–1152.
3. Dvorak, R. D., Lamis, D. A., Malone, P. S. (2013). Alcohol use, depressive symptoms, and impulsivity as risk factors for suicide proneness among college students. Journal of Affective Disorders, 149(1-3), 326–334.
4. Wald, A., Leveille, S., & Halon, P. College health service utilization following the Boston marathon bombing events. [Poster Presentation]. American Public Health Association Annual Meeting 2013.

We’ve built the task group into a nationally recognized entity.

The College Mental Health Task Group was formed to fill the need for answers and guidelines concerning mental health in the college population. Special difficulties accompany this stage in life filled with hard decisions, changes, and the acceptance of more responsibility. During the transition to adulthood, college students may experience vulnerabilities that need to be addressed before they can develop into happy, functioning adults.

  • CMH Task Group participates in prominent national meetings including: APA, AADPRT, DoCC
  • Active in the APA CMH caucus
  • Enjoy solid relationships with The Jed Foundation and now AACAP
  • Members of the College Mental Health Task Group have recently engaged in discussions regarding suicide in college students, telehealth concerns relating to ability to treat patients across state lines, and pros/cons of third-party mental health providers. They are interested in working together to identify the major issues facing providers in this field and communicating those to those who form policies at the college and university level. Rachel Conrad, a co-chair of this group, was invited to present on the topic of “Young Adult Mental Health” during the 2022 NNDC Annual Meeting.
  • In 2019, the College Mental Health Task Group was awarded an NNDC Momentum Grant to analyze the data contained within the Healthy Minds Network at the University of Michigan. Two of the main inquiries were to examine trends in prescribing medication for mood and anxiety disorders, as well as the ability to access services on college campuses for young adults with mood and anxiety disorders. This work and additional efforts led to multiple publications and presentations by the group:
  • Publications:
    • Hoeflich, C. C., Nutley, S., Striley, C. W., Miller, L., Riba, M. B., & Morris, M. R. (2022). Current psychiatric treatment for college students with depression only, anxiety only, or comorbid depression & anxiety (2013-2019). Journal of Affective Disorders.
    • Morris, M. R., Hoeflich, C. C., Nutley, S., Ellingrod, V. L., Riba, M. B., & Striley, C. W. (2021). Use of psychiatric medication by college students: A decade of data. Pharmacotherapy, 41(4), 350–358.
    • Morris, M. R., Nutley, S. K., Striley, C. W., & Pumariega, A. J. (2021). Psychiatric medications prescribed on-campus and off-campus for university students: Differences in demographics, types of medication, and satisfaction with services. Journal of American College Health: J of ACH, 1–7.
  • Presentations:
    • Hoeflich, C., Nutley, S., Morris, M., & Striley, C. Assessing anti-psychotic use patterns: Nearly 90% of current anti-psychotic medication users in college report polypharmacy in 2018-2019. [Poster Presentation]. College on Problems of Drug Dependence (CPDD) Virtual 83rd Annual Scientific Meeting (International) 2021.
    • Hoeflich, C., Nutley, S., Morris, M., & Striley, C. Elucidating trends in international psychiatric treatment engagement for depression among college students. [Poster Presentation]. Virtual 20th World Psychiatric Association’s (WPA) World Congress of Psychiatry 2021.
    • Hoeflich, C., Nutley, S., Morris, M., & Striley, C. Psychiatric treatment modalities and help-seeking behaviors for anxiety disorders across university campuses. [Poster Presentation]. Virtual American Psychopathological Association (APPA) Annual Meeting 2021.
    • Morris, M., Striley, C., Hoeflich, C., & Nutley, S. The decade prior to COVID-19: Trends in depression and anxiety in college students. [Poster Presentation]. Virtual American Public Health Association (APHA) Annual Meeting and Expo 2020.
    • Hoeflich, C., Nutley, S., Morris, M., & Striley, C. Comorbidity of moderate to severe depression and anxiety nearly triples over past decade among college students. [Poster Presentation]. Virtual NNDC Annual Conference 2020.

For more information about this task group, please contact Program Manager Mary Laffey ([email protected]).

Each year, NNDC Task Groups are invited to apply for NNDC Momentum Grants to fund pilot projects that can be used to generate proposals for larger federal or foundation grants. For details, visit the NNDC Momentum Grants page.

page updated: 02/2023