I read a recent article from Macleans CA about the rapidly rising incidence of mental health problems experienced by college students in Canada and the US. They found that a quarter of university-aged Canadians experienced a mental health problem, most commonly stress, anxiety, or depression.
A 2011 survey of students revealed that 51% felt hopeless, 87% felt overwhelmed and exhausted, about a third felt lonely and very sad, and 57% experienced more than average stress. These kind of statistics beg the question: WHY? I believe there are many reasons, but will take on just a few here.
One biggie is that way too many parents are not allowing their children to make mistakes, fail, suffer, or be unhappy…ever! The way one family recently described it to me is that “they didn’t want their kids to ever feel discomfort.” Wow! When these kids leave home, they don’t know how to cope with the normal ups and downs of life because they never HAD to cope with any downs; any time they started to falter, mom or dad rushed in to rescue them and lift them up. This leaves young adults unable to deal with the pressures and stresses and challenges of life.
Reason #2 is the incessant pressure on kids to be perfect, to be the best, and to be at the top of their class. They may leave high school in the top 10% of their graduating class, but when they sit in their 1st top-tier college class, they are no longer the smartest person in the room. And only 10% of that top 10% can end up in the top 10%…does that make sense??? Many young people have a hard time wrapping their heads around that fact, and they are still experiencing pressures from home about getting straight A’s and getting into the best law schools and internships. It never seems to end.
When 18 year olds set foot on campus, they are no longer the special wunderchild they have been made out to be their whole lives. Other than for athletes, the pedestals they have been perched on their whole lives must be discarded. I feel for kids undergoing these transformations, because we have not properly prepared them for the real world.
I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes.
“The mistakes we are not allowed to make in our youth we tend to make later in life; with more cost and less benefit.”