The Effect of Mental Health/Depression on Student Academics


This essay investigates the impacts of depression on the academic performance of students. The mental health status of a student, from wellness to illness, plays an important role in their thinking, behavior, feelings, interaction, and learning processes. One of the common mental health issues affecting students in modern society is depression. It affects the ability of a student to perform activities of living daily and has a significant influence on the students’ academic performance (Mosher 72). I picked an interest in the topic after reading an article online about a successful philanthropist who established a mental facility offering free mental health services for young students struggling with depression. The philanthropist was motivated by his own experience while in college where he struggled with depression for a long time until well-wishers helped him to recover. According to that article, many college students struggled with mental health issues silently without receiving any help, which ends up affecting their academic life and career prospects in life, which sparked me into picking an interest in learning more about mental health problems and their impacts on the academic performance of students. Indeed, depression has often been associated with poor academic performance among students, and this observation needs to be carefully studied.

Causes of Depression

The main causes of depression are helplessness and hopelessness. Among college students, depression is associated with a sad feeling perceived as a mental health illness. Most students show the first symptoms of depression while in college. The first signs are exhibited as a constant feeling of sadness and lack of energy. Such symptoms cause a significant level of distraction that jeopardizes the academic performance of the affected.

Separation from primary attachment is viewed as one of the causes of depression especially among college students who are forced to live away from home for the first time. A history of rejection, separation and insecure attachments is also a risk factor for developing depression. Whether it is a dear friend or a family member, losing someone close is associated with prolonged depression. Indeed, students with a history of abuse and neglect during the childhood years and an act of betrayal from someone they trusted such as a mother who brought home an evil stepfather, are significant risks of depression. Abuses such as sexual, physical and emotional abuse, increases the vulnerability of students to clinical depression in later stages of life.

Stress and irritability increase the risks of mental health problems including depression, which is worsened by poor participation rates of college students in counseling services (Extremera & Pablo 48). The stress is associated with life challenges, as well as deadline-related activities, while, high debt and fewer job prospects awaiting students after graduation when compared to previous generations represent major depression risk factors. Romantic relationships are also a risk factor for depression in the population of young adults. The high risk of depression from the romantic relationship is caused by the propensity of breakups such that the affected are susceptible to high stress and other unhealthy consequences such as sleeping problems.

The use of certain medications including antiviral drugs like interferon-alpha, treating acne with isotretinoin and using corticosteroids increases the risk of depression for most students. Personal conflicts with friends and family members also lead to depression especially among students who are biologically vulnerable to depression (Eisenberg et al. 595).

Depression is also related to genetics as people coming from a family with a history of depression have an increased risk of developing the condition. The complexity of depression means that there could be several different genes exerting small effects as opposed to a single gene contributing to the risk of the mental condition.

Depression can also be caused by significant life event including both positive and negative events. Events, like starting a new job, getting married and graduating, can cause depression. Similarly, negative events like getting divorced, or the loss of a job increase the risk of developing depression.  Personal problems experienced by students such as social isolation as a result of other mental illness can also drive a person to depression.

The Teacher’s Perspective and what they could do for Students

The teacher’s perspective is both the perception of teachers on student’s behavior and abilities and the perception of students on the teacher’s opinion regarding their abilities and behavior. The perspective of teachers on students’ traits affects their interaction with the student. While the perception of students on teacher’s perspective affects their morale, confidence, performance, and psychosocial development. As a result, the teacher’s perspective is a vital (Rossen et al. 8) element of students’ psychological health, especially for the vulnerable students with depression.

The teacher’s perspective plays a significant role in the mental health of the student. In the case where the teacher is unable to see through the disturbing traits of depression and assumes that the student needs to be punished for exhibiting several bad behaviors, then the mental health of such students deteriorates significantly. The teacher’s perception makes a difference in the mental health progression of vulnerable students who show signs of depression. Like other mental health problems, people with depression need a strong support system and a clinical or rehabilitative intervention. The student who gets help realizes healthy live and improved capacity for performing activities of daily living. However, students who are misunderstood and miss the opportune it to get help end up with a deteriorated mental health and other serious consequences such as social maladjustment or become suicidal (Eisenberg et al. 596). As such, teachers should be trained so that they may gain the skill to identify early signs of depression and how to handle such cases. The perspective of teachers can be perceived by the affected student through the things that the teachers say and how they act around them. As such, teachers must be careful to adopt the right perspective that is instrumental in improving the state of wellbeing for students with mental health issues.

The first thing that the right teacher’s perspective can do to help such students is to identify the risk behaviors for the affected students and recommend or provide school-based counseling and interventions. The demonstration of a positive attitude regarding these students is also instrumental in their healing process. The teacher should try to identify a few positive things about the student and praise them publicly. Praising the student’s work and behavior goes a long way in motivating the affected person to engage in positive thinking and feel appreciated. Such an emotional response is key in overcoming depression. The right teachers’ perspective is influential is establishing a close and positive interpersonal relationship with the affected student. Such a relationship is effective in the healing process as it preventing behavioral problems and facilitating the social adaptation and the related psychosocial development.

The Accessibility of Help and Treatment for Students

College students face various challenges while trying to seek medical help for mental health issues such as depression. Despite the existence of counselling facilities in some colleges, specialized medical care for depression is often costly and unaffordable for many college students. Combined with the high cost of college education, the inability to afford medical help leads to further challenges in dealing with depression. It is a common phenomenon that students try to balance work and attending college to aid with their finances, which further increases their vulnerability to stress and succumbing to depression. Since stress is correlated with depression, stressed students who balance work and college are more prone to developing depression and the lack of time may prevent them from seeking medical attention.

Considering the tendency of students to experience depression and other mental health problems caused by an array of factors that affect them, it is imperative that help and treatment are made accessible to all students before these conditions exacerbate. Based on decades of research, a foundation framework has been laid for the provision of effective mental health services in schools to protect the wellbeing of students, reduce stigma, promote learning and improve access to these services (Holland 17). Mental health service provision is a multilayered system that provides support to students and can enhance the lives of students, educators and their families, the community, and society. This aspect calls for serious consideration of mental health issues in the learning environment with a particular focus on school reform efforts.

Combating stigma is one of the first steps towards increasing accessibility of mental health services among students. The use of counseling services in schools decreases sharply with an increase in stigma. However, greater levels of depression indicate greater growth in the demand for counseling services. Focusing on the eradication of stigma will not only result in more students seeking counseling services but will also reduce the prevalence of greater depression as the issue is detected and addressed at an early stage. Supporting adaptive coping methods like developing high self-esteem for students can also increase the accessibility of counseling services for depression in schools (Rossen et al. 13).

Based on the findings that indicate factors deterring students from seeking help and treatment for depression, some recommendations are availed to address the issue. The first recommendation is the use of social marketing campaigns. These campaigns can target reducing the level of stigma associated with mental health issues in schools and households (Holland 34). The campaign can be conducted in traditional media platforms like television, radio and newspaper advertisement. However, wider penetration of campaign against stigma and access to depression counseling can be achieved through social media, as well as campus-wide campaigns.

It is vital for the administration in schools to augment specific health-related courses to ensure that students are equipped with the knowledge of depression. An understanding of the condition, the ways to deal with it, and the proper treatment for the condition can increase the accessibility of treatment among students.

The rising prevalence of mental health problems like depression coupled with the flow rate of seeking mental health counseling is affecting the academic performance of many students. Developing interpersonal coping skills and social support can be instrumental in helping some students to adopt better to college than others, which can contribute to improved academic performance.  A huge population of students displaying depression and anxiety conditions does not receive mental health counseling services. The number of range from 37% to 84% of the students depending on the mental health disorder (Eisenberg et al. 594).  Factors contributing to the low access to help and treatment include low socioeconomic background, Asian or Pacific Islander origin, skepticism about the effectiveness of treatment, unawareness of insurance coverage and treatment services and lack of perceived need of counseling services or treatment


The prevalence of depression in school continues to grow along with other mental health disorders, which affect the academic performance of students and their ability to cope with life after school. Counseling services and treatment for depression are rarely sought after due to many reasons including stigma lack of knowledge about the condition, inaccessibility of medical services due to high costs and low income and increased stress associated with balance school and work. Therefore, most of the students with depression do not seek or receive treatment even in environments with free accessible short-term psychotherapy services and basic health services like schools. The study indicates that depression is associated with a negative effect on the academic performance of students with a significant difference in performance according to the level of depression from low to high level. A call to action is needed in improving the academic performance of students by mitigating the depression menace among college students to help them achieve their life goals.

Works Cited

Rossen, Eric, et al. “Improving Mental Health in Schools.” The Phi Delta Kappan, vol. 96, no. 4, 2014, pp. 8–13. Accessed April 15, 2019.

Holland, Donna. “College Student Stress Mental Health: Examination of Stigmatic Views on Mental Health Counseling.” Michigan Sociological Review, vol. 30, 2016, pp. 16–43. Accessed April 15, 2019.

Extremera, Natalio, and Pablo Fernández-Berrocal. “Emotional Intelligence as Predictor of Mental, Social, and Physical Health in University Students.” The Spanish Journal of Psychology, vol. 3, 2006, pp. 45-51. Accessed April 15, 2019.

Eisenberg, Daniel, et al. “Help-Seeking and Access to Mental Health Care in a University Student Population.” Medical Care, vol. 45, no. 7, 2007, pp. 594–601. Accessed April 15, 2019.

Mosher, Catherine. “Coping and Social Support as Mediators of the Relation of Optimism to Depressive Symptoms among Black College Students.” Journal of Black Psychology Vol. 32, no.6, 2006, pp. 72-86. Accessed April 15, 2019.


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