Midway through 1997, the first Harry Potter book, originally Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, was released in London. The beginning of the Harry Potter era coincided with the ending of another—that of “Deep Blue”—which defeated Chess Champion Gary Kasparaov before being retired by IBM.
Sadly, 1997 will be remembered the year Princess Diana passed away, a funeral watched by hundreds of millions. Later in the year, people were heading in droves to the movies to watch a fictionalized account of another human tragedy—the sinking of the Titanic—ultimately making James Cameron’s movie one of the highest-grossing films of all time.
Around this time, the national conversation about mental well-being and antidepressants was gaining in strength, particularly in the wake of Prozac Nation and Listening to Prozac’s publication a few years earlier. The 1990s saw substantial increases in the use of antidepressants and other psychiatric medications such as Prozac, Zoloft, and Paxil. When members of this generation entered college, updates to the 1997 CIRP Freshman Survey included questions about students’ past experience with such medications.
Results from the CIRP administration show that 5.2% of all first-time, full-time students entering four-year colleges reported taking a prescribed anti-depressant as seniors in high school. A slightly lower percentage of male students (4.6%) reported taking anti-depressants than their female counterparts (5.8%). Among students who indicated they were frequently depressed in high school, 16.3% reported taking a prescribed anti-depressant. Though this question regarding antidepressant use was only included on the survey between 1996 and 1999, it signaled an important change in college students’ health care and well-being, as well as a larger, national trend regarding medications and antidepressants. In addition, such data reinforced the need for institutions to consider the specific needs and supports required to ensure student success.
In addition to asking about prescribed anti-depressants, the 1997 CIRP Freshman Survey asked students for only the second time whether they expected to seek personal counseling while in college. In 1997, 5.4% of incoming students indicated there was a very good chance that they would seek personal counseling while in college. Similar to the responses about anti-depressants, males were less likely to anticipate seeking personal counseling, with 4.6% reporting a very good chance they would do so, compared to 6.1% of females. Fifteen years later, in the fall of 2012, the percentage of students expecting to seek personal counseling has more than doubled to 10.9% of all incoming first-time, full-time students, with slightly larger differences between male and female students.
DID YOU KNOW:
66.6% of students thought there was a very good chance they would earn a bachelor’s degree.
33.1% of students reported taking an SAT/ACT prep course. Among students with reported family incomes above $75k, 39.2% of students reported taking a prep course compared to 28.4% of students from families making $25k or less.
40.3% of students thought there was a very good chance they would get a job to help pay for college expenses
54.4% frequently or occasionally found it difficult to study at home
4.2% of students reported having already taken courses for credit at the institution where they enrolled