In my prior post I told the story of being left on my own as a college student in Minnesota, while my parents moved to Florida.
These days, things are different. Students struggle with “overwhelming anxiety,” loneliness and suicidal behavior.
Counseling centers on campus are jammed. Two out of five students are too depressed to function, and many take a semester or more off from school in order to recover.
Had I been in such a state of mind in the 1970s, I’d have never made it. But I was resilient, a quality inherited from a prior generation that fought a world war and farmed the prairie without the conveniences of running water and central heating.
That’s the generation that raised me. If you were too fragile to function in such an environment, you were more likely to receive a kick in the behind than a counseling session.
Not a perfect solution, to be sure . . .
But today’s students are not known for their resilience or toughness. I was sitting in a meeting at Hamline University one day when a student visiting our ministry from another campus announced, “Hi, my name is S. Nice to meet you guys. I identify as (ethnicity) and (gender), my preferred pronoun is _____, and I struggle with mental health.”
The room barely took notice. It’s what we do, it’s how we talk on campus, it’s in the air. It’s the new generation.
And just because my grandparents (and their generation), who took down the Ottoman Empire and stood up to the 3rd Reich and had nothing but an outhouse to use in twenty-below temperatures on the family farm, wouldn’t approve of S or coddle to his/her/their feelings of “overwhelming anxiety” and trauma . . . doesn’t mean their methods and attitudes were correct.
So what’s the solution to the mental health crisis on campus?
I believe a vast set of neglected resources exists that, if utilized, would provide immediate help. I’ll talk about it in my next post.