Anxious about the future

by Stacey

Back in college, I was kind of a wreck. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. The working world seemed daunting and inaccessible. I had grand ambitions to travel, but no real means to make that happen. I wanted to live large, writing books and smoking cigarettes, but in truth I felt small and ineffectual. As romantic as it all seemed back then, it was a bit tortured and I’m glad it’s over.

Since that time, getting into college has become a national obsession. We’ve all heard stories about kids jumping through hoop after hoop to pad their college application with extra-curriculars. I’ve often wondered what happens to those kids when they get to college. Do they feel an overwhelming sense of satisfaction or are they miserable, unsure of how to spend their time now that they are no longer gunning for the fat envelope?

It may not be causal, but a new survey possibly sheds light on this question.

The survey, conducted by the Anxiety Disorders Association of America consisted of interviews with administrators in the counseling centers of close to 100 of the nation’s top universities and liberal arts colleges. The results show a rising trend in students seeking mental health counseling on college campuses.

According the survey: Nearly all survey respondents at both national universities and liberal arts colleges reported an increase in student usage of mental health services throughout the past three years.

The good news is the schools also reported offering mental health services to students, although there were differences among liberal arts colleges and universities.

Nearly every school surveyed provides crisis intervention, individual counseling, referrals to community resources, consultations and outreach programming…Small and large national universities are somewhat more likely, however, to offer both group counseling/ support groups and anxiety-related group counseling/ support groups. The prevalence of anxiety-related group counseling/support groups is greater among larger universities.

As we were all sadly reminded with the recent shootings at Virginia Tech, the stakes can be drastically high if mental health problems go unchecked. I am not so much wondering here about the person who might commit such a horrible crime, but about the many kids who may be suffering quietly. I know there are lots of reasons why college-age kids develop mental health issues – living independently for the first time as well as the likelihood of predisposed symptoms arising at this age in life – to name a couple.

But the question I have is, are we setting our kids up by encouraging so much investment of time and emotional energy into getting into college? Shouldn’t we be also teaching them that life is meant to be enjoyed? That one’s accomplishments are important, but not the only thing to be valued in a person? My kids are so young, we’re not yet really thinking about college (except how the hell are we going to pay for it). I’m curious what others think about this pressure on kids and whether it might be contributing to the trend found in the survey.


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Filed under child development, children's health, depression, education, parenting

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