Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Keeping up with The Times

Exams and papers have been graded, and the fall semester has a great big fork stuck in it. Then along comes this article, "Mental Health Needs Seen Growing at Colleges," which I think is worth a gander for anyone teaching undergraduate students:

A recent survey by the American College Counseling Association found that a majority of students seek help for normal post-adolescent trouble like romantic heartbreak and identity crises. But 44 percent in counseling have severe psychological disorders, up from 16 percent in 2000, and 24 percent are on psychiatric medication, up from 17 percent a decade ago.

The most common disorders today: depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, alcohol abuse, attention disorders, self-injury and eating disorders.

Every semester, it seems, I have at least one or two students who come to talk to me about their concerns about their performance in my courses - in connection with the side effects of the medications that they take for depression and / or anxiety and / or attention disorders.

What got to me especially was the effects that students' problems have on the people who work with them: "The need to help this troubled population has forced campus mental health centers — whose staffs, on average, have not grown in proportion to student enrollment in 15 years — to take extraordinary measures to make do."

This is not to mention the professors, like me, who frankly are unequipped to do much more than make referrals to the counseling center. However, each referral results from my taking the time and care to sit and listen - and absorb - the worries of a student who approaches me as his or her teacher.

“By this point in the semester to not lose hope or get jaded about the work, it can be a challenge,” Dr. Hwang [a clinical psychology at SUNY Stony Brook] said. “By the end of the day, I go home so adrenalized that even though I’m exhausted it will take me hours to fall asleep.”

For relief, she plays with her 2-year-old daughter, and she has taken up the guitar again.

Hmm. I need a hobby.

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