Tue, Oct 02, 2007 - Page 2 News List

More than a quarter of college students depressed: survey

By Angelica Oung  /  STAFF REPORTER

More than a quarter of Taiwanese college students suffer from some form of depression, according to the latest survey conducted by the John Tung Foundation.

The foundation surveyed 6,960 college students all over the country in May and June this year and received 6,198 valid responses. In surveys done in the last two years, the foundation found that 24.1 percent and 24.3 percent of students are depressed enough to benefit from professional assistance.

"We have said for years that roughly one in four college students in this country are depressed enough to need help," said Yeh Ya-hsing (葉雅馨), the foundation's mental-health section chief. "But this is the first year that the number actually exceeded 25 percent."

However, of the 25.7 percent of the students surveyed who were put in the category of being depressed enough to benefit from assistance, only 8.2 percent sought help with the university's counseling center.

The top reason students cited for not going to counseling was they did not consider their problems serious enough to merit counseling, followed by the reluctance to discuss personal problems with a stranger.

"Maybe our school counselors seem too `professional,'" said the foundation's executive director Huang Chen-tai (黃鎮台). "If students perceive them as a part of the school's bureaucracy, they're not going to be comfortable sharing their problems with counselors."

Hu Ting-wei (胡廷薇), director of the counseling division at Tamkang University, said that the traditional stigma attached to seeking help for psychiatric disorders still hamper students when seeking help.

"There is the idea that is instilled by parents that you have to overcome problems yourself, that seeking help for depression is weak," Hu said.

Hu related incidents where parents refused to allow their depressed child to seek medical help because "they did not want her child's medical records to contain evidence that they took anti-depressants."

"Some students cannot get help over the summer because their parents forbid them from going for any kind of psychiatric help," Wu said.

The most common problem students report is academic pressure, followed by anxiety over what they want to do with their lives after graduation.

"It's very easy to get into a university these days," Hu said. "But some students who are weaker academically find it very challenging to keep up with the workload."

"Even beyond passing their classes, some students obsess over how their classmates have done in optional tests such as English proficiency exams because it is such a competitive environment," Hu said.

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