Mental health issues have lost much of their stigma on college campuses, as they have in the rest of the world. Today’s college students self-medicate just as much as they always did, but they also seek professional help in a much more public way than you might remember from your own school days. You’ll find evidence of this openness in this week’s College Longreads pick, from the University of North Carolina. Every one of Claire McNeill’s sources went on the record about their pain, fear, and suicide attempts. But what makes the story stand out, in addition to thorough reporting, is a thoughtful angle.

The University of North Carolina, the story posits, is a college campus known for its positivity and student satisfaction. “From its radiant azaleas to its basketball fever, from its 700 student organizations to its ranking as Best Public Value School in the nation, from the University’s favored buzzwords — inclusivity, diversity, collaboration — to its unofficial motto in ‘The Carolina Way,’ it seems from a distance that UNC’s 18,500 undergraduate students are living the life of a college brochure,” McNeill writes. How do you live with depression in a place that keeps telling you how happy you ought to be? The angle is what makes an otherwise well-trod story compelling. Journalists rely on this no-duh skill of finding fresh angles so much that they forget it’s something they had to learn, to refine, over time.

Depression in the Southern Part of Heaven

Claire McNeill | Synapse Magazine | February 10, 2014 | 15 minutes (3,807 words)