Increasing Number of College Students with Anxiety

I have worked with students for nearly two decades, and the increasing number of students struggling with anxiety is alarming.

A recent article in Psychology Today outlines reasons why so many college students have anxiety disorders.

Diane Dreher states:

Research points to three changes in our culture that could be undermining the mental health of today’s college students.

  1. An increase in materialistic values…
  2. The rising cost of college…
  3. Delayed adulthood and external locus of control…

Let me briefly touch on each point. First, I agree with the author’s statement that today there is more emphasis on materialism, consumerism, and financial success. Just the other day, my wife and I had a conversation with our young children who have begun to place too much importance on material things. “Remember,” I said to my kids, “people are more important than stuff.”

Second, Dreher points to rising costs of tuition and living expenses in the U.S., but the trend is similar in Canada. For example, when I was an undergrad 20 years ago, the average cost of tuition in the country was around $3000. Today, it is more than $6500.

Third, on the idea of delayed adulthood and external locus of control, I concur. Just last week, I was talking with a young man who dropped out of university in his second semester. He blamed everyone but himself for his lack of success.

I agree with Dreher that these factors are affecting students’ development and mental health. But I would add another societal change that also plays a major role: use of technology. Sounds like a topic for another blog.

 

 

Daddy Versus the Volcano

“Dad, tell me what should I draw,” my six-year-old daughter says.

“Um, I don’t know. Draw Joe jumping into a volcano.”

“Who’s Joe?”

“He’s from a movie. Joe jumps into a volcano to save an island.”

My daughter puts pen to paper. She quickly finishes her artwork and laughs as she shows me her masterpiece:

Dad volcano
Drawing of daddy jumping into a volcano.
Photo by M. Fleming

“That’s not Joe. That’s me jumping into the volcano!”

“Funny, eh dad?”

Yes, funny. But it makes me think at a deeper level. How would I face an impending death due to brain cloud? Would I discover meaning? Would I jump into a volcano? Would I learn how to live? Would I realize my Meg Ryan is right in front of me? And if I would, if I could, I should be able to now—in the present—without a brain cloud.

A Reply from No Frills and Bigger Problems for Loblaw Companies

Recently I wrote to No Frills about my concerns over some print advertisements I saw outside my local supermarket.

A Letter to No Frills About Offensive Ad

Another Letter to No Frills About Another Offensive Ad

I feel their use of the words bananas and nuts in their ads are hurtful to many individuals and add to the stigma surrounding mental illness.

Some readers may disagree, but remember words like gay and retarded were acceptable vernacular not too many years ago.

Dr. Gail Saltz, psychiatrist and author, shares my views and suggests society needs to banish words such as crazy and nuts. I quoted Dr. Saltz in a separate post, cra-zy.

I want to let readers know that I received a response from No Frills’ parent company, Loblaw Companies. Loblaw assured me that they did not mean to offend and that my concerns would be passed along to the marketing department.

Unfortunately, the print ads remain. And I’m skeptical that the marketing department gives a shit, for I view marketers in the same light as used-car salesmen and politicians.

Coincidentally, I read an article in CBC news today about a woman with a disability who was banned from a No Frills store because she couldn’t pack her groceries fast enough.

Woman with disability banned from No Frills store after failing to pack groceries fast enough

Kudos to Linda Rolston for complaining to head office and being an advocate for people with disabilities.

To Loblaw Companies, I would simply encourage you to treat every customer with respect; other critics, however, would say your behaviour in this case is nuts.

 

 

Century-old Wisdom on Happiness

Last month, in a post titled The Happy Life, I wrote about a couple ideas on happiness written in a book published in 1905.

Recently, I received an even older book on the subject. The Duty of Happiness by Sir John Lubbock was published in 1896.

Lubbock book pic
Cover of Lubbock’s Book on Happiness
Photo by M. Fleming

I read the book with interest and discovered three important nuggets of century-old wisdom.

First, there’s a link between happiness and nature.

Nature provides without stint the main requisites of human happiness.

Second—and my wife is also good at reminding me of this—we need to think about how grateful we are. Lubbock writes:

Think how much we have to be thankful for. Few of us appreciate the number of our everyday blessings.

And finally, we have the ultimate choice of how we live.

Few of us, indeed, realize the wonderful privilege of living; the blessings we inherit, the glories and beauties of the Universe, which is our own if we so choose; the extent to which we can make ourselves what we wish to be; or the power we possess of securing peace, of triumphing over pain and sorrow.

Thanks to Sir John Lubbock, when it comes to living fully, I will remember to consider the following: nature, gratitude, and choice.

My Love Affair With Carl

I was first introduced to the ideas of Carl Rogers, the founder of humanistic psychology, when I was in university back in the ’90s. I had a psychology professor who made fun of Rogers and his principles.

These days, if I were to run into that psychology professor, I would strongly disagree with his criticisms. But that psychology professor has probably kicked the bucket by now.

Anyway, after reading On Becoming a Person, I have come to discover that I love Carl Rogers. His philosophy on relationships and personal growth align with insights I have gained from my personal and professional experiences.

Rogers On Becoming
Cover of On Becoming a Person
Photo by M. Fleming

In my personal relationships and in my work with students, I have found that individuals have enormous potential within themselves.

Rogers discovered the same:

Gradually my experience has forced me to conclude that the individual has within himself the capacity and the tendency, latent if not evident, to move forward toward maturity.

Let’s keep moving forward.

My Son Makes Me Cry and My Daughter Makes Me Laugh

We had just finished watching a family movie. All four of us are cuddled on the couch as the credits roll. My 5-year-old son nonchalantly says, “Hey guys, I know which one of us is going to die first,” as he points his finger in my direction.

I’m eating breakfast the next morning when my 6-year-old daughter runs into the kitchen. She says, “Hey dad, I just had a really silly experience.” I ask about her silly experience. She says, “I sneezed and farted at the same time.”

The Happy Life

This past Christmas, my wife gave me things I desperately needed: socks and self-help books.

One book that intrigued me was The Happy Life by Charles W. Eliot. It was published in 1905! My 5-year-old son said, “Dad, that book smells old.”

happy life book cover
Cover of The Happy Life.
Photo by M. Fleming

I was curious to see if any of Eliot’s principles applied in 2019, more than a century after he wrote the book.

Incidentally, most, if not all, of Eliot’s insights still apply today.

Here’s one of my favourite passages:

In trying to enumerate the positive satisfactions which an average man may reasonably expect to enjoy in this world, I of course take no account of those too common objects of human pursuit,—wealth, power, and fame; first, because they do not as a rule contribute to happiness; and secondly, because they are unattainable by mankind in general.

And another:

The most satisfactory thing in all this earthly life is to be able to serve our fellow beings,—first those who are bound to us by love, then the wider circle of fellow-townsmen, fellow-countrymen, or fellow-men.

Wealth, power, and fame do not bring happiness. Loving others does. True in 1905 and still true today.

Nostalgia for Richard Marx and The Importance of Syntax

Ah, it’s great to have memories of a first love.

Her name was Sonia, and she asked me to dance in an elementary school gymnasium years ago. The song? “Right Here Waiting” by Richard Marx.

So you can imagine the fuzzy feelings that returned when I saw Buddy Daiquiri—played by Richard Marx—in the episode ‘Poison Fire Teats Universe’ of Life in Pieces.

In the episode, Buddy sings “Right Here Waiting.”

My eyes started to tear up.

It was the perfect moment to express my love to my soulmate. But instead of turning to my wife and saying, “There’s nowhere I’d rather be,” I hear myself saying:

I’d rather be nowhere.

It didn’t go over too well…I wonder what Sonia’s up to these days.

Another Letter to No Frills About Another Offensive Ad

Dear No Frills,

Last week I wrote to you expressing my disappointment with one of your print advertisements that contained a derogatory term.

A Letter to No Frills About Offensive Ad

I’m disappointed that I did not receive a response.

This week, I wanted to let you know about another offensive print ad that I saw in the window of my local No Frills supermarket. The ad must be part of your “Perpetuating the Stigma Around Mental Illness” campaign.

Our Social Life Is Nuts
Advertisement in window of local supermarket

Now, I like eating nuts. Except pistachios, of course. One night when I was younger, I ate a lot of pistachios which led to an unfortunate bout of diarrhea. I haven’t eaten pistachios since. Anyway, other than pistachios, I like eating nuts. I do not, however, like seeing the word nuts being used in an offensive way.

I hope you consider pulling this advertisement. When it comes to the stigma around mental health problems, let’s try to reduce it, not preserve it.