April 18, 2004 -- A growing
number of students at the troubled New York University - where four
students have plunged to their deaths in recent months - are getting
antidepressant drugs from school psychiatrists, an alarming internal
Prescriptions written by the school's mental-health unit for
anti-anxiety drugs - such as Xanax and BuSpar - tripled over the
past five years, the 116-page report stated.
"Medication therapy, once a peripheral aspect of college mental
health, has moved front and center," a December 2003 report by NYU
on undergraduate programs stated.
At the same time, prescriptions at NYU for anti-psychotic drugs
such as Clozapine jumped 173 percent, the study showed.
During the 2002-2003 academic year, the school doled out meds to
750 students - or one in five who used NYU's University Counseling
University spokesman John Beckman said the jump in medicated
students was a reflection of a nationwide problem, as more than half
of those who got prescriptions were already on the medications when
they arrived from high school.
"We're seeing more students who might not have graduated high
school without the medication."
In the wake of the report, the university has turned for help
from the citywide, 24-hour crisis hot line, LifeNet.
Under a new partnership with the university, LifeNet hired a
full-time counselor to handle calls from troubled NYU students last
month and has developed a formal protocol for handling them.
NYU students who call LifeNet will be referred to the counselor,
who will work closely with the university's mental health, alcohol
and substance-abuse programs.
The internal report, completed last December, comes as the
prestigious school struggles to lift student morale in the wake of
the four deaths between September and March.
The report also found that NYU freshmen appear to be more
depressed than students at other universities. At NYU, 16 percent of
its freshmen "seriously considered suicide" at least once last year
- three percentage points higher than the national average.