It’s no news that mental health issues are skyrocketing, and people in higher education fields can hardly keep up with the number of students in crisis. Counseling staff, case workers, faculty, dean of students and housing staff are overwhelmed by the need and there’s so much debate on WHY our students are such a mess, but very little in the way of effective proactive care. My goal lately is to figure out some kind of non-cheesy campus campaign to….to…what? I don’t even know. Get them to utilize counseling services? They do that – or Lordy do they ever do that. Tell them to snap out of it and just be happy? As if it’s that easy. Say that “it gets better”? Except that I hate that slogan because it implies something magically happens without any work involved and fixes everything. So maybe get them to see this isn’t the way you have to go through life, but the only person who can fix it is YOU??? And even then you’ll still have bad days because you’re human??? That’s not very sexy to market.
More and more students are coming to school already having diagnoses, medications, and therapists. Often hospital psychiatric admittance as well. The ones I deal with think nothing of it – it’s just a normal part of themselves and they casually talk about how damaged they are (their words). The ease of finding online communities that cater to people that want to wallow in their misery rather than overcome it only compounds the problem.
Anxious, suicidal, and depressed people – have I pissed you off yet? Keep reading, I’m sure I’ll get to that.
Not that everyone wants to wallow, but more often than not I am coming across students who know about all their school’s and community’s resources and are just plain not interested. Those are students that really try my patience. The ones who don’t want to talk to a counselor, or do but don’t want to follow any of the suggestions given or even take their prescribed medication because it’s not that important to them. Their identity is their diagnosis and displaying symptoms is their badge of honor. But they really want to be on campus and continually use the less threatening/less demanding resources of friends and student staff until they completely drain them. Then we get the self-fulfilling prophecy of students feeling alone because people around them are too emotionally exhausted to continue having this vampiric relationship with them. It’s as if they WANT to be depressed. They WANT to be anxious. They WANT to be able to leave a string of ambiguous tweets about harming themselves or others without being held accountable for saying it. *heavy sigh*.
Folks, this isn’t a lifestyle choice. Mental illness shouldn’t be made fashionable on tumblr, pinterest, and reddit so you can find like minds to encourage self destructive thoughts and behaviors. This is detrimental to not only you but to your family, neighbors, and roommates in a community living environment such as a residence hall. I’m not saying I don’t want to deal with students who have disorders, just that I prefer to work with people who actually WANT to feel better, and are taking steps towards that goal, no matter how small. I know where you’re coming from, I really, REALLY do. But in every moment you let slide by in a blur of sadness or panic, you had the power within you to decide what you will do next.
It’s always been you who has to fumble your way out of the dark basement or shrink that giant rock sitting on your chest, but it doesn’t happen quickly and it doesn’t happen without great effort. All the behavioral therapy and medication in the world will not overcome the force of your will, so use that will to fight.