Stress: The Silent Killer of College Students

by: Chris Montague
May 14, 2016

Drew Rutten, mech. engineering major at UD, struggles to finish homework late at night, Credit: Chris Montague via iPhone Images

Jacob Marberger, as stressed out 19-year-old sophomore at Washington College, unexpectedly took his own life last year. Jacob lacked the care he needed to help fix his social problems, which got the best of him during the tough transition from high school to college.

Jacob is not the only one to be affected by the lack of help for college students trying to find themselves. The effects of stress touch millions of our students. Since the 1950’s the suicide rate among college students has nearly tripled to the current 7.5 out of 100,000 students nationwide which is roughly 1,100 suicides yearly. Stress and depression among students are severe problems that are taking the lives of this nation’s future.

Reasons for Stress

Now more than ever, students are feeling overwhelming stress, leading to suicide in these young adults. Young men and women entering any new environment may feel overwhelmed and lost in their new world. This new experience needs to be as accommodating and welcoming as possible in order for these students to adjust properly.

Another reason for stress is a student’s own pursuit of perfection. Students are obsessed with getting perfect grades, so when a students GPA isn’t as good as planned, depression coincides.

“What you and I would call disappointments in life, to them feels like big failures.” -Julie Scelfo, social trend reporter for New York Times

This sense of letdown does major psychological damage to a young adult’s mind, which is still developing.

Along with personal expectations come the expectations of college professors and the advanced difficulty in today’s teaching. The expectations of professors combined with the expectations of the individual student cause an unbelievable amount of stress. This stress ultimately leads to anxiety and depression, which directly relates to suicide.

These causes for stress can be simplified by saying that these students are just lost and need help. Suicide and stress among students are detrimental problems today especially due to the unavoidable consequences. Harmful drugs and alcohol to “relieve stress” are so easy to come by nowadays. “All of these strategies can bring short-term relief but at a high cost to both the mind and body”.

harmful medicines abused by college students to gain an edge in studying, Credit: Mario via Flickr

What’s Been Done

There have been attempts to solve this terrible problem that have been unsuccessful. Attempts such as more exercise, less procrastination, and more campus involvement have all been utilized in the past with little results.

These “solutions”, which could have been thought of by my 5 year old cousin Jenna, aren’t fixing the true problem, but completely missing the point.

Another ineffective attempt at a solution to the problem that was attempted in the past includes nets under high bridges like at Cornell University. Come on… Giant nets are the answer? Again, little Jenna even knows better. If students plan on harming themselves, a big net won’t stop them from doing so, let alone fix the stress epidemic in colleges.

What Needs to be Done


Parents need to first do their best to recognize when their child is suffering from stress and depression due to the new college experience. “If they’re isolated, if they’re not connecting, you reach out, talk to the counseling service, talk about ways to get them help,” said Eells from Cornell. If a kid knows that he or she has a family to love them and support them, they will be less likely to make rash decisions.

Counselor gives tips to new Freshman on how to adjust to college life, Credit: CFMiami Photography via Flickr


The quality of academic advising in a college is the number one indicator of satisfaction during the four years that a student attends college. Students that know they have people there for them will be more likely to maintain a happy lifestyle. The heart of the solution is to require counseling for first and second year college students to help them adjust to their new lives.

64% of students dropped out in 2012 because of depression and stress, but only 50% of those students reported their issues to the school. This shows that many students are afraid to confront anyone about their problems, so we need to go to them instead.


Awareness campaigns are essential to help students understand the severity of the issue.

“Two-thirds of the students, when they’re really struggling, they don’t go to campus mental health professionals or faculty or even their parents. They go to each other,” says Dori Hutchinson.

Students should know that there are more people to talk to other than their peers. Your peers lack the same knowledge about stress that a professional counselor or psychiatrist contains. Professors and school counselors need to let the students know that it is completely necessary to seek counseling when depressed and stressed instead of holding in the pain.


Colleges like Clemson University have lowered their suicide rate by utilizing training workshops that are mandatory for students in which they learn how to properly handle suicidal thoughts. They also have professional counselors that are very good at what they do and they require students to meet with them frequently.

On the other hand, MIT College in Massachusetts has a suicide rate higher than the national average. MIT has worked to make counseling and mental attention a priority, but the rates continue to climb. This is most likely due to their inability to fully inform the students of the severity of the situation. Colleges nationwide need to come together to attack this problem. Certain schools can’t be holding back the movement if the problem is going to be fixed. Students need to realize that they are not in this problem alone, other people feel the same way.

Credit: Simon McSweeney via Flickr

Overall, it is evident that stress in college students needs to be fixed before it gets way out of hand. Recalling Jacob’s incident, there is hope in the near future for students based on the reaction from Jacob’s community. His classmates and loved ones showed tremendous sympathy for Jacob following his death. The school then decided it was necessary to “have counseling services on hand” at all times.

Help came a little too late for Jacob, but we can prevent these tragedies with awareness campaigns, mandatory counseling, and a desire to end this epidemic.

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