In my prior post I mentioned that today’s university students are not known for their resilience, mainly due to mental health concerns. In fact, mental health is a runaway train on campus these days, with experts using terms such as “epidemic” and “crisis” to describe the situation.
Two massive surveys of college students showed, for example, that depression, anxiety, and suicide attempts have spiked up in recent years.
Myself, I appreciate the fine privilege of sitting with students in campus unions and dorm lounges around the country, hearing their stories. Some confide in me, though not all. Being a traveler actually helps: it’s amazing what people will tell a stranger.
As I listen to them I think back to my college days, where there was more of an expectation to face your problems head-on and suck it up. I’m not as against this older generational wisdom as you might think. Yet, it seems to fall short.
The biblical prescription is more comprehensive and more attuned to the true human condition. It has to do with certain “life-basics” that God has provided for our well-being. A short list includes worship and prayer, confession of sin, service to others, Christian community, hard work, sabbath rest, church attendance and Bible study.
And don’t forget the God-given gifts of regular eating, exercise and sleep.
Such fundamental practices are too easily skipped over in route to the counseling center, perhaps because they’re not seen as relevant to mental health.
Of course, counselors on campus provide a tremendous service to students, and should be utilized when necessary. I’ve recommended counseling to many students.
But I wish to ask a simple question of every believer in the university who’s struggling with anxiety and depression: “Are you practicing the basics?” God designed us as nephesh or“living souls” to walk with him in the rhythms of work, rest, service and prayer. Neglect of such a pattern of life will, in my estimation, contribute to declining mental health.
Now the argument could be made that things aren’t quite this simple. A person can be doing all the right things, spiritually, and still suffer from serious challenges. Agreed.
And perhaps too often the Christian advice for solving problems is to just “pray about it.”
But it seems the most basic resources provided by God for our well-being are often undervalued, and if utilized properly would lower the stress and tension levels of many a college student (and graduate student).
Ditto that for those of us in the work-a-day world.
Back to the first post in this series (recommend to a friend).