Sunday, September 19, 2010

Are Kids Worse Off, or Just More Honest?

This press release from the American Psychological Association has me questioning what they're actually trying to say. I mean, the headline is that college students are "exhibiting" more severe mental illness these days. But does that mean that they're suffering from more severe illness?

What I'm getting at is that just because more college students are reporting (and seeking help for) mental illness now, isn't it possible that there were just as many students in the past who suffered in silence? Let's face it: there's a stigma attached to mental illness, and I think that the current prejudice against mental illness and the people who admit to suffering from it is not nearly as pronounced as it has been in years past. So it's all well and good to call it something like "a shift in the needs of students seeking counseling services," (as John Guthman, director of student counseling services at Hofstra University calls it) but isn't it possible that this is something that they have consistently needed but were afraid to ask for?

Maybe I'm getting wound up about nothing, but I have serious problems with the language used in large parts of the APA's press release. "More students are coming to college with pre-existing mental health difficulties"? Sounds to me like another way of saying "they were like that when they got here!"

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The header image is adapted from a photo taken by Bill McChesney and used under a creative commons license.
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