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Harvard Depression Rates Stay Constant

By Katie H. Sylvan, Contributing Writer

The number of college students nationwide presenting symptoms of severe psychological problems has been on the rise in recent years, according to an annual study conducted by the Association for University and College Counseling Center Directors.

But the incidence of such conditions has remained flat at Harvard, according to information provided by Paul J. Barreira, director of behavioral health and academic counseling for University Health Services.

According to an emailed statement from Barreira, a detailed annual survey of Harvard freshman—first administered in 2007—has found that reported rates of depression, anxiety, and other psychological conditions have remained unchanged.

Furthermore, while the AUCCCD reported anxiety and depression as students’ leading complaints, Harvard students have cited stress as the biggest factor hindering their emotional health since the year 2000, according to Barreira.

The different psychological profile of the Harvard student body may be attributable to a number of diverse causes.

Compared to some other universities, Harvard provides more mental health resources on a per student basis.

Student-to-staff ratios at college campus health centers across the country have remained stable, on average, at roughly 1,786 students to one staff member, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education.

By contrast, according to a 2009 Crimson article, University Health Services at Harvard offers one staff member per 700 students.

Barreira noted that UHS Mental Health Services also increases its staff for the final five weeks of the semester in order to help students during the most demanding periods of the academic year.

Mental Health Services has also increased its staff during the school year, as compared to the summer, in order to ensure that it has all of the resources necessary to accommodate student requests.

In contrast, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education, many campuses nationwide have only recently begun to expand the psychological resources that their schools offer, and many of these institutions reported that the psychiatric services remained insufficient.

Barreira noted that as finals draw near, students should remain conscientious of potential stresses and seek out support from their family and friends.

“Keeping yourself in contact with friends [and] maintaining social connections is vital at times when we fell particularly overwhelmed or alone,” Barreira wrote.

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