Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The Mental Health of American College Students

Some politicians want you to think that you’ve never had it so good. Others are proclaiming that the nation and its people are mired in misery. Thus, that the end is nigh.

If America’s future is its college students, the future does not look very rosy. On the one hand, students have been filled full of false pride, called self-esteem. They are systematically lied to, about their abilities and about their achievements. And they have been guilt tripped to a point where they will find it impossible to compete in the world. We should not be surprised that they are suffering from a smorgasbord of mental health issues.

More and more of today’s students are lining up for counseling. Those who treat them are working hard and well to provide therapy and coaching for those who need them. Happily enough, most of what seems to be on offer involves cognitive/behavioral treatments and coaching.

But, enquiring minds want to know: what does it all mean?

It’s always good to begin with the data, so here it is, via the Wall Street Journal:

Ohio State has seen a 43% jump in the past five years in the number of students being treated at the university’s counseling center. At the University of Central Florida in Orlando, the increase has been about 12% each year over the past decade. At the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, demand for counseling-center services has increased by 36% in the last seven years.

Nationwide, 17% of college students were diagnosed with or treated for anxiety problems during the past year, and 13.9% were diagnosed with or treated for depression, according to aspring 2016 survey of 95,761 students by the American College Health Association. That is up from 11.6% for anxiety and 10.7% for depression inthe spring 2011 survey. Counseling centers say they are also seeing more serious illnesses, including an uptick in the number of students coming to college with long psychiatric histories.

Clearly, we are not doing right by our young people. Therapists have the explanations you would expect them to have:

Therapists point to everything from the economy and rising cost of tuition to the impact of social media and a so-called helicopter-parenting style that doesn’t allow adolescents to experience failure. Students are “overwhelmed with stress,” says Micky M. Sharma, director of Ohio State’s Student Life Counseling and Consultation Service. “The coping, the resiliency is not where we want it to be. That’s a bad combination.”

In other words, they have rounded up the usual suspects. These include the internet, the economy, Facebook, Snapchat, the Tea Party, the media, hip hop, self-esteemism, and bad mothers.

And yet, we can do better.We note that this spike in student mental illness has occurred during the Age of Obama. You know, a time when you have never had it so good.

Could it be that the current administration has had something to do with the national mood, with the mental health of children?

Call it speculation, but I suspect that our president’s efforts to demoralize the country, to talk it down, to glorify unpatriotic displays as dissent,  to surrender the nation’s interests, to retreat from world leadership, to denigrate its past achievements, to allow us to be humiliated by a state sponsor of terrorism have had a negative effect on mental health.

And then there is the therapeutic component of the current culture. This prevails especially in schools where children are taught that they are all racists and sexists. If they disagree, they are penalized. If nothing else, it makes them all feel guilty. Children are taught that climate change is going to destroy them and the planet. If they don’t believe it, or if they even question it, they will be penalized. If they are male they are denounced as incipient or actual rapists. If they are women they have been or will be victimized by men. If they are white they must feel guilty about white privilege. The list could go on and on.

I do not have a definitive answer, but surely, the example set by our leaders has some effect on the mental health of citizens. When your nation is led by a man whose foreign policy is weak and feckless you are not going to feel proud of yourself or your country. The Obama presidency has taught everyone to feel like they belong to a criminal enterprise and that all past successes were based on cheating and exploitation and oppression. When it comes to pride, we have it on the authority of our current first lady that the only thing you can feel proud of is the Obama presidency.

If you are not allowed to feel pride in your country if you are told that trashing the country is as valid as patriotism, how can you feel pride in yourself, in your family, in your community? As your pride diminishes, your despair and anguish will increase.


Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

Outstanding post, Stuart. Spot on.

Anonymous said...


Look at the political culture of California.

Diversity is leading to increase in anti-Zionism.

Mondoweiss is pure evil but the site is useful as canary in coalmine of the growing cult of BDS and other lunacy.


Trigger Warning said...

My last year of part-time university teaching was half a decade ago. I retired in disgust.

And people wonder why tech giants pound the table for more H1-B visas. American students are, for the most part, a gaggle of pathetic, spoiled illiterates.

Anxiety is not a "mental illness" for people too incompetent and solipsistic to cope with life. It's a perfectly reasonable response.

Ares Olympus said...

Stuart: If you are not allowed to feel pride in your country if you are told that trashing the country is as valid as patriotism, how can you feel pride in yourself, in your family, in your community? As your pride diminishes, your despair and anguish will increase.

Does Obama really say patriotism is bad? If you watched the Democratic National convention at all, you'd see it is the democrats who are promoting the greatness of this country, while all Trump (And th RNC) could/can do is repeat the words "It's a disaster" until we're all so demoralized, we go back to binge watching NetFlix television series from the 1990s to feel better.

Although it was very cute that Melania Trump borrowed large sections of Michelle Obama's speech in her uplifting view of America.

Anyway, of course we know if we currently had a republican President, the cases would be reversed, and the GOP would be crowing about how much things have improved, while the grumpy cat democrats probably would have picked Socialist Sanders to lead them to the promised land in his contempt for corporate power, the same power that makes America great, to whichever party is currently in power and benefiting from the new wealth effect.

So it looks like both sides just love their strawmen opponents and their strawman failings, who are simply shadows of their own current role on the political stage.

But back to Students depression, perhaps we can blame Aaron Sorkin and Jeff Daniels for their 2012 self-righteous series of a Newsroom trying to stand above rating as a measure of success.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1zqOYBabXmA The Newsroom - Opening Scene