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Using Facebook to Identify College Students Suffering From Depression

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Physical wounds are often easy to see or sense. A broken arm shows an obvious cast. A broken foot comes with a limp. What about a broken psyche? That’s often harder to spot, but social media could be a valuable window into the mental health of individuals who need help.

College campuses have become swamped with students who need counseling, and there are often too few resources for that counseling, mostly due to budget constraints. The medications that are allowing today’s youth with mental issues to lead more ordinary lives are also allowing them to seek a college degree.

But not all of these students are able to cope with medication alone.

Identifying depression is difficult in a microcosm like a college campus where new faces show up every semester. These students often have no support network as they try to make their way through this new life.

Thanks to Facebook and other social media sites where students are apt to let their true feelings be known, professionals have a new tool to reach out to individuals in need.

College campuses have begun campaigns to reach out to these students and try to convince them that they don’t have to face depression alone. One program was able to reach more than 250 students and found that 25 percent of them showed signs of major depression while an additional 20 percent had entertained thoughts of suicide at least once.

While the program helped to identify these students, a very small percentage of them sought treatment.

The ubiquity of social media is making identifying mental illness easier to spot, but when it comes to interacting, it’s ultimately up to the individual to take the first steps toward recovery.

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