Mental Illness Epidemic-Is it all just to sell books?

After class the other day I really got to thinking about Colby as an environment for cultivating mental health.  Since coming back on campus from being abroad I have been questioning just how healthy of an environment college actually is.  Every day we contend with numerous social and academic pressures.  Will you wear the right outfit? Did you get an A on your midterm?  What do your friends think of you? When will you right that paper? When weighing the pros and cons of college does the education we receive outweigh the negative environment?  My question going into this topic was if all of these pressures make people more venerable to mental illnesses.

I found a story on NPR that a heard last fall about the issue of mental illnesses on college campuses.  There has been a recent rise in the number of people seeking guidance for mental illnesses on college campuses across the nation.  This “mental illness epidemic” has people questioning the environment of college campuses and considering why there seems to be a rise in mental illnesses in our generation.  The story on NPR states that they do not think it is something with our generation, rather it is a product of better diagnosis and medications that allow students, who’s disabilities might have once restricted them, to continue their education.  Nonetheless, I do not feel like the environment on campuses is conducive to healthy living.  This NPR story also discusses how Stanford University is trying to make a healthier environment on campus for people suffering from mental illnesses.  Their solution was creative; they collected personal stories from people around campus and turned it into a performance.  They performed these dialogs around campus to raise awareness and open discussion.  What they did was very important.  They brought to light something that before had not been discussed.  A lot of these monologues are very powerful and I recommend listening to them.

I also found an interesting book called College of the Overwhelmed: The Campus Mental Health Crisis and What to Do About It.  I included a review below:

From Publishers Weekly

Kadison, chief of mental health services at Harvard, and DiGeronimo (How to Talk to Your Kids About Really Important Things) are deeply concerned about the marked growth in serious mental health problems on campus: they note statistics showing that almost half of all students will become seriously depressed during their college career and may engage repeatedly in binge drinking. One in 10 undergraduates, they say, will seriously consider suicide. And the crisis is augmented, say the authors, by the cutbacks in mental health programs at many colleges due to budgetary considerations. Kadison and DiGeronimo do a commendable job of outlining the many stresses students face, such as academic pressure, financial problems, feelings of social inadequacy and, for women, a fear of sexual assault. In a stark chapter, the authors outline the self-destructive coping mechanisms adopted by those with emotional problems, including eating disorders, drug abuse, cutting and suicide attempts. Parents will find sensible suggestions for helping their children deal with college life. Most important, say the authors, is keeping the lines of communication open by listening to children without judgment or criticism. Parents, college counselors and administrators, and students themselves (to whom the last chapter is addressed) will find helpful, if sometimes disturbing, information here.

What do you think? Does it sound like a good way to sell books to parent that are struggling to let go of their children? Also in a time when finances are tight should the health center really be the place to be making cuts?

NPR story:

Link to book:

6 thoughts on “Mental Illness Epidemic-Is it all just to sell books?

  1. Hannah, when I read this post, it got me thinking about the recent article in the Colby Echo about our school and the stresses that come with college life. If anyone hasn’t read it yet, it’s at and it’s about “Body Image on the Hill”. I thought this was really interesting in relation to the mental and social aspect of the stressful life that college brings…


  2. I agree with you Hannah, that even the greater society today puts so many extra pressures and strains on individuals and students who are still discovering a sense of identity feel this immensely. College campuses are a place that seem to foster depression as well as just the age group which attends college. It is a difficult time to say the least, and under the social, academic, and familial pressures there is no wonder why some students suffer from depression.


  3. Hannah – Great job with this topic. I agree that the age and environment of college students can be directly correlated to mental health issues such as emotional stress and depression. I listened to the NPR monologues and found them encouragingly honest. One student mentioned that she just wanted to hear that someone else was feeling the same way that she was feeling. The most direct address of the problem of mental health issues is to erase the stigma against them, allowing discussion about emotional problems to be socially acceptable. And while this is a time of economic hardship, it doesn’t cost anything to start up a conversation.


  4. hmm… I don’t feel like parents are the best target for helping these students. I feel like undergraduates typically do not go to their parents for help, but rather, their peers. We, as students, are not always calling up our parents and telling them every detail of our lives. We are, however, talking to our peers about these things. Perhaps we should focus more on bringing this information to schools as a way to facilitate discussion between peers. I think ultimately, if we want to address these issues in undergrads, we need to target the actual undergrad population to see any sort of mediation.


  5. You bring up a very interesting subject, Hannah. I sometimes wonder if Colby, often described as a campus with a heavy emphasis on binge-drinking, is an environment that causes stress and anxiety. With such a small student body, individuals must deal with not only academic but social pressure daily. There are days when I feel like Colby is an incredibly accepting place, but at the same time I often feel so stressed with everything we as students are asked to do that I don’t feel able to enjoy being in college. There is a lot of evidence that college-aged boys and girls are incredibly prone to mental disorders. Is there a way we can help alleviate this issue at Colby? It seemed to be that the book you mentioned was focused on selling itself to parents. As Jenn pointed out, at this age and because we no longer live at home, students are very independent and it is unusual that parents are able to play as large of a role in our lives as in high school. This means that it is our job to continue researching and reach out to those in our generation, because as the girl in the NPR monologue suggested, the people who are most able to help us are those who are going through similar things.


  6. I agree with many of the posts stated above, as everybody brought up wonderful points. Colby, specifically, can be an incredibly difficult place to go to school, because of the many individual expectations that are placed on students. Not only are we supposed to succeed academically, but we’re supposed to take on a lot of activities and maintain a vibrant social life. If we don’t fit into that mold or can’t keep up with the aforementioned academic and social pressures, individuals may have difficulties with their emerging identities leaving them more prone to vulnerability. There are certainly resources for everybody on campus (the Health Center, CAs, and friends–as Jenna noted), and the student body (as a whole) is friendly and welcoming. But I think the most important part is to de-stigmatize being visibly sad or upset, especially by making the facts related to mental health known immediately when first years step on campus and by re-emphasizing the resources that can help everybody… Especially because Colby students are, on the outside at least, happy, it makes walking around campus and being with friends tremendously difficult when you’re upset–it’s overwhelming when everybody wants to help!


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