The Herald’s spring undergraduate poll found that 13.3 percent of students have been prescribed medication for depression and 16.6 percent for anxiety. The poll also found that students were prescribed medications for other illnesses in smaller proportions — 3 percent of students reported being medicated for attention deficit disorder, 2.4 percent for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, 2.7 percent for obsessive-compulsive disorder, 1.1 percent for bipolar disorder and 0.1 percent for schizophrenia. Additionally, 2.8 percent of students were prescribed medications for other mental illnesses. In total, 23.3 percent of polled students have been prescribed psychiatric medication.
“Those numbers are fairly consistent with prescribing practices for colleges nationally,” said Will Meek, psychologist and the director of Counseling and Psychological Services.
“The academic challenge at Brown is really high. There are a lot of students here who really care about their academics, their careers, their performance,” he said. “When there’s a high level of pressure and a high level of challenge, it can create a lot of stress, which can lead to psychiatric symptoms,” he added.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, “anxiety is the most common mental illness” in the United States, affecting 18.1 percent of the adult population. The ADAA also reported that in a given year, 6.7 percent of all American adults were affected by major depressive disorder.
The Herald’s spring undergraduate poll also found a large overlap between students with prescriptions for medications treating anxiety and students with prescriptions treating depression; 58.1 percent of students who reported receiving a prescription for anxiety medication also said they had a prescription for anti-depressants.
“There are common neurotransmitters involved in depression and anxiety,” wrote Lisa Frappier, a psychiatrist at CAPS, in an email to The Herald, listing serotonin and norepinephrine. “This may account for similarities in clinical symptoms like disruption in sleep, appetite, energy and concentration,” she added.
To help students navigate experiences with mental illness, CAPS offers students counseling services and can prescribe students psychiatric medication. “CAPS has psychiatry services available for students also in counseling treatment,” Meek said.
This year, the University’s Health Services also started prescribing students medication to treat mild to moderate depression and anxiety, The Herald previously reported.
“The fact is that depression and anxiety are the top two reasons for which people seek help,” Meek said, adding that this prevalence is the major reason why more support exists for students affected by these illnesses than others.
While illnesses such as depression and anxiety have been normalized on college campuses, there is still a tendency to stigmatize other conditions, said Elyse Sauber ’20, a peer mental health advocate from Project LETS, a nonprofit organization that offers support to students with mental illnesses. “It’s great that there is a lot of attention on anxiety and depression, because that wasn’t always the case. However, there are lots of other (conditions) that are prevalent on campus,” Sauber said.
Meek said he believes “there is lot of work to be done to raise awareness about the conditions that are less common.”