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.

 

 

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.

A Letter to No Frills About Offensive Ad

Dear No Frills,

I’m happy that you sell bananas. I like bananas.

I once read that if you dress up as a banana and eat a banana, you are a cannibananabal. It’s true. I read it one day on my joke-of-the-day calendar.

Kidding aside, I’m writing to express my disappointment with some of your advertising. I saw this print ad outside of my local No Frills supermarket:

no frills bananas
Advertisement outside local supermarket.

I like the simplicity of your design. Unfortunately, however, your advertisement contributes to the stigma surrounding mental illness. The implied meaning of the word bananas in your pun is a derogatory term and hurtful to many individuals who experience mental illness.

I hope you consider pulling the offensive advertisement.

cra-zy

cra-zy
adjective
mentally deranged

At two distinct times in my life, I was non compos mentis, which in Latin means not having control of one’s mind.

Rest assured, I am totally compos mentis right now.

Yet every day I’m reminded of the agony of losing my mind. First off, people use the word crazy incorrectly. Each time, it reminds me of times of personal despair and anguish. Second, words like nuts, crackers, bananas, and loony are commonly used words that stigmatize people with mental illness. For me, they’re more reminders of the dark nights of my soul.

Work is crazy. The weather is crazy. That guy drives me nuts. That woman is bananas. C’mon, people! The English language is rich with alternate adjectives.

We need to stop using words that are harmful and make a conscious effort to refrain from using certain language.

Dr. Gail Saltz, psychiatrist and author, shares my beliefs. In her book The Power of Different: The Link Between Disorder and Genius she offers a suggestion to society:

“Stop shaming those who are in the struggle, and banish words such as crazy and nuts from our speech.”

Hurtful words have become common in today’s vernacular. I wish I could change the world, but I can’t. I can, however, make thoughtful word choices in my own speech, and hey, maybe I can influence one or two blog readers to change their way of thinking.

On Depression

Last week I posted a poem I wrote on anxiety. I used it recently,  in conjunction with the following poem I wrote on depression, to initiate a discussion on mental health.

On Depression

Depression is a shadow, following me in remission.
He appears through the bathroom door, like a deranged Jack Nicholson, as I take my daily medication.
He pokes fun at me on my way to the therapist’s.
He reminds me of his power, nudging me toward the infinite abyss.

Depression is a light, guiding me in remission.
He appears on a street corner, like a transformed Jack Nicholson, as I kiss the woman I love.
He laughs with me on my way to work.
He reminds me of his power, nudging me toward the endless beauty.

On Anxiety

I am afraid of rolling balls and prowling tigers.
They are all around me.
I cannot breathe.

Every day, a child’s ball rolls in front of my car as I drive.
Every night, a saber-toothed tiger prowls as I sleep.

I am afraid of rolling balls and prowling tigers.
They are all around me.
I cannot breathe.

Do I deflate the balls and attack the tigers?
Or do I accept them and let them be?
I want to breathe again.

Making the Beast Beautiful

The title of the book catches my attention: First, We Make the Beast Beautiful

Someone might look at the inside cover photo of the author, Sarah Wilson, and say, “It’s hard to believe someone who looks like this has so many issues.”

With an autoimmune disease and mental health challenges, Wilson has some issues.

But instead of seeing her issues as negative and detrimental, Wilson has come to discover that her so-called afflictions are helpful during her spiritual journey.

And maybe that’s why her photo radiates beauty.

She makes the beast beautiful and helps others see its beauty.