Date of Award


Document type


Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program


First Advisor

Christine King

Second Advisor

Karen Plotkin

Third Advisor

Tameka Gillum

Subject Categories



Increasingly in the last two decades college students have been diagnosed with depression, with estimates of major depression higher than the general population (American Psychiatric Association {APA}, 2005). According to the literature, the stresses of college life along with increased rates of substance abuse, and binge drinking have contributed to the rise in depression in this population. In a large survey of American college students, over half reported some depression since entering college (National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse {NCASA}, 2003). Correspondingly, the percentage of young people treated with antidepressants has grown over the past decade, and there is concern that for younger individuals the newer antidepressants may increase suicidal ideation (Simon, 2006). Suicide is the second leading cause of death among college students, and although people between the ages of 20 and 24 who are not in college are more likely to commit suicide, one study found that 10% of college students interviewed had considered suicide within the past year (NCASA, 2003). Although numerous studies have been completed (Wagner, Ambrosini, Rynn, Wohlberg, Yang, Greenberg et al., 2003; Keller, Ryna, Strober, Klein, Kutcher & Birmaher et al., 2001) to determine the appropriate use of antidepressants in depression, there have been few qualitative studies available that actually explore the experiences of young people being medicated with antidepressants (Fornos, Mika, Bayles, Serrano, Jimenez & Villarreal, 2005; Simon, 2006; Dundon, 2006). The purpose of this descriptive exploratory study was to explore how college students perceive the experience of having been medicated with antidepressants. A review of the literature related to depression and college students, the causes of stress in students‟ lives, non-medical treatment of depression, plus information on the SSRI antidepressants is presented. The study describes the lived experience of college students prescribed antidepressants utilizing phenomenology as its philosophical basis. The internet was used to obtain informed consent, and conduct qualitative interviews to gather information on students‟ lived experience. These interviews explored the students‟ experiences with being medicated for depression with antidepressants, and their experiences with stress, anxiety and depression in college. In presenting the findings, whenever possible the students own words were used to describe their experiences with antidepressants. The main findings of the this qualitative study included a feeling of numbness in students who were on antidepressants, a general dislike for the medication, even if they felt it was initially useful. It also presents a picture of the academic, familial and financial stresses college students are under as well as alternate ways they deal with depression and stress. Exercise, music and marijuana were seen as great stress relievers, and talking to good friends very helpful for overcoming depression. The students advised others to carefully do their research before they decide to start on an antidepressant medication. Implications for nursing and the role of Nurse practitioners in making decisions about medicating depressed college students are discussed.


Included in

Nursing Commons