• Joel Brown

    Staff Writer

    Portrait of Joel Brown. An older white man with greying brown hair, beard, and mustache and wearing glasses, white collared shirt, and navy blue blazer, smiles and poses in front of a dark grey background.

    Joel Brown is a staff writer at BU Today and Bostonia magazine. He’s written more than 700 stories for the Boston Globe and has also written for the Boston Herald and the Greenfield Recorder. Profile

Comments & Discussion

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There are 24 comments on Mental Health Matters: A Growing Challenge

  1. The first part of this article makes it seem like my generation Just Can’t Cope, as if we did this to ourselves. That’s pretty messed up to insinuate.

    1. I wonder why nobody ever puts this together… Emotional self-regulation is learned from 0-3, a time span that babies and moms used to spend together, but now a baby is a lot more likely to be in a daycare center, where the staff can change, and there are several babies for the adult to attend to, not just one. And the adult is not necessarily feeling any love for those babies. Obviously, this experience is going to be stressful, which is proved by cortisol studies. Care or lack of care from 0-3 strongly impacts both self-regulation and the stress response.

  2. It’s true that we can’t cope, but the reasons in this article are inaccurate. Autumn is right – we did not do this to ourselves and it’s wrong to suggest that we did. It’s not that students don’t know how to have face-to-face interaction with their professors, it’s that many professors are inaccessible on an emotional level; they don’t view students with the respect or sense of community they need in order to offer help, support, and guidance without judgment.

    The phrase “productive struggle” is also potentially dangerous to use – it runs the risk of glorifying excess stress. The majority of college students are neither ignorant nor incompetent. They are capable and intelligent and they embrace challenge – BU students specifically are known for being ambitious. To suggest that college students cannot gauge for themselves whether or not something is too hard (and implying that college students tend to overestimate, rather than understimate, the level of challenge and stress they face) does the exact opposite of enouraging students to seek help. It makes them feel invalidated and unworthy of help.

    1. As someone who suffers from anxiety problems, this kind of rubbed me the wrong way. It portrayed mental illness as something you decide to have. There is a difference between stress caused by laziness and a mental illness. For instance, Jon’s panic attack symptoms were physically debilitating and I would imagine that would make functioning at the pace BU requires very difficult which would probably stress him out even more. Yes, there must be a reason for an increase in mental health issues, but this article was quick to throw the blame on the students.

      1. By “this rubbed me the wrong way,” do you mean the article or my comment? Just wanted to clarify since it was a reply to mine, but I completely agree with everything you are saying and I hope that came across. I apologize if it did not.

  3. I think a great way to address the stress, anxiety, and depression that is so rampant is to build a stronger BU community through more wellness events within the housing system and on campus. Adjusting to college, tackling classes, and making new friends can be a difficult transition. The more support we have from our peers, which could be facilitated by the school, the better off our students would be. This won’t address everything, but it’s a start.

  4. I would like to reiterate some of the concerns expressed in the comments. For the director of Behavioral Medicine to approach statistically higher levels of stress by suggesting that there is a generational breakdown is ill founded and appalling. Under the same logic, one could argue that previous generations have had the same amount of stress but felt unable to seek help or resources beyond them. Where both arguments may sound fulfilled, there are more accurate and assistive approaches. We should be trying to treat the individuals that are in need instead of creating an environment that places blame on a discriminate group. Comparing this article to the ones on sexual assault, this article fails in encouraging self care and general well being. I expect more from Boston University and Behavioral Medicine.

  5. Well… If I ever need proof that Psychology is an inherently flawed science, I know which article to share. Really, placing the blame of increased stress on students? It’s not difficult at all to see why there are increases in stress and mental disorders in colleges; each year the tests keep getting harder, each year there is an increase placed on ‘the importance of testing’, each year every class asks for more commitment, almost as if said class ‘deserves’ to take up huge quantities of a student’s time, each year more and more personal time is taken away from students, and each year all of the previous are simply labeled as ‘normal college life’. With the propagation of the idea that such large rises in the level of difficulty for every college student in my generation are what is ‘normal’ and ‘expected of each individual’, it should be obvious that massive amounts of stress on said students will occur. It is a fact that the baby boom generation had jobs available when they graduated, and they didn’t have the immense student loan debt that we have as well. So why wouldn’t we be more stressed? Why would it be unexpected to see rates of suicidal thoughts increase? Placing the blame of increased stress on students… utterly ridiculous.

  6. I got to BU in spite of my depression and anxiety. I’m here for a second graduate degree and reading this article makes me weary of reaching out for help. Perhaps the numbers are greater not due to generational laziness or inability to cope; rather, we as a society are finally, albeit slowly, making treatment for mental illness less taboo. I see a lot of causation without correlation.

  7. I didn’t like this article. At all. I thought I was just being too sensitive but it seems like people here agree with me as well. As a freshman at BU I experienced intense depression and anxiety, to the point where I stopped talking to people, stopped going to class, stopped eating, and slept all the time. I felt like I was in a fog. It was awful. And to point at this and say “that’s an effect of helicopter parenting” or “that’s because of bad coping skills” or to insinuate that previous generations could manage better is silly. It’s such a simplification. First of all, I imagine that depression and anxiety have always been part of the human condition. Now, people feel that they can more easily get help, or are more open to the thought of help, which I view as a good thing.

    People need to realize that while school stress can highlight anxiety or depression, it’s often not the cause of it. Maybe it’s just the way this article is set up or how certain words are highlighted. I’m sorry, but for me, saying that students don’t understand “productive struggle” is awful. “Struggle” was my entire first semester of college. Maybe Hutchinson’s words have a different context, but I find them insulting, and I think most people who have struggled with any sort of mental health problem would too.

  8. I think you all have overreacted to the “productive struggle” comment. I agree, younger generations seem to think any effort they put into anything is deserving of an award or recognition. Have you not ever sat down and had a conversation with your aging family members or any elderly person. I have suffered with anxiety and panic most of my life and it has been debilitating at times. Preventing me from leaving the house and entering a grocery store. Lost a home, children and lived in a car.
    You better get use to stress, feeling unappreciated, betrayed, feeling exhausted sometimes completely hopeless, fear that almost paralyzing while still moving forward and wishing you had the time to breakdown and cry but your to busy.
    Today people complain about how difficult their life is or stressful (and it probably is) not everyday, month or even year is going to be a good one. If you are hardly in your 20’s get ready because most likely the worse is yet to come.
    Back in the day people didn’t have time to think about their mental state which was probably a good thing, they just got up everyday and embraced it even when it sucked.
    I’m not saying not to get the appropriate mental health care and address these issues because I certainly understand the despair and panic.
    However, knowing my fathers and many other elder adults in their 70’s and 80’s who were working a few jobs at age 11, raising and purporting their families while putting themselves through college at and still working 17 hour shifts, never once complaining. We live in a society where everyone wants someone to fix their problems or concerns instantly requiring the least amount of effort on their part. Maybe instead of reaching for pills an exercise program that requires breaking a sweet could be helpful.
    Read the book mentioned above and bet you will have a different perspective on nj
    We all have our own coping skills and the more healthy ones you have the better off you willmbe
    Read the book “year of wonders” by Geraldine Brooks

    1. The problem with your overall point of view is that people who have lived through the “good” old days are an incredibly biased sample- they are the ones who, with ease or hardship, were able to adapt and survive. Because the people of their generation who had mental or social difficulties were basically abandoned by the system, due to lack of available treatment and lack of recognition that mental problems could (or should!) be treated at all.

      You don’t see them today because they died from neglect, or dropped out of society, or wound up in prison.

      It is almost certain if you talk to members of the older generation you won’t have to look very far before hearing stories about some of their relatives who didn’t make it, but if they’d had access to modern “coddling” would have had a better chance of treating their issues.

    2. Coming from a situation where I had to support my family with several jobs in a low income neighborhood and still getting into BU does not mean that I have overcome my mental illness. Just two years ago, I was in a desperate and dangerous place. Had I not started seeking treatment for my rapidly developing bipolar disorder, I most certainly would have been seriously debilitated or worse. After several desperate attempts, I was fortunate to find a medicine that works effectively for me. This isn’t the case for every situation. The current options for pharmaceutical treatment are limited and there is little information about how the drugs work with the brain. A perfect example of the current struggles of college students can be found in Faulkner’s The Sound and The Fury, a book which was written in the 1920’s and a brilliant mind was lost to mental illness. This is a topic that should not be treated with such flippancy. I hope that previous generations will be assistive instead of dismissive.

  9. There is really no such thing as the “good old days” maybe “good” times in someone’s life.
    I certainly don’t think things are less stressful now as compared to the “good old days”. That’s an illusion people make up in their heads and want to believe. People have been struggling for centuries with hardships, mental health issues, financial, and other difficulties. Also, there may be times in one’s life when they need medication for mental health purposes, however that does not mean they will always need medication. It’s not unheard of that people are suffering with symptoms that can be named “depression, bipolar, OCD and other disorders at some point in life, that does not mean one will always have them or have then at that severity level or require medication for the rest of their life. There are alternative methods for dealing with many of those symptoms that have been diagnosed as clinical but it requires effort, commitment, time, and getting use to being uncomfortable and realizing stress is part of life for almost everyone. We are a country and society that wants to label every behavior, feeling, emotion or lack there of as a symptom(s) that meets the criteria for a mental disorder of some sort. Most people want a quick fix and the least amount of effort spending time utilizing other methods that can help counteract or alleviate many of the symptoms. Once again I’m not suggesting one should not seek professional help. It has been my experience that those who are suffering with some of the most severe of mental health issues are taking the least amount of medication and function very well in society, for example Schizophrenia. It has been my experience that those who have been diagnosed with other mental health issues seem to be on way to much medication and if many of them would add exercise, yoga, meditation or other activities to their lifestyle many of those symptoms would be less severe, disappear or at least give relief to them just as a prescribed pill does. Considering the current state in this society and the huge number of people on prescribed medications as compared to even 15 years ago, why is it that we have more violence, more children in foster care, more behavioral problems, suicide, more anger, even from those on medication? You would think with all this awareness, people seeking help and taking prescribed meds our society would be less dangerous, angry and doing well or happier, but its not.
    This is what confuses me. Maybe we are addressing these issues wrong or with one option, prescribed medication. Like telling someone the only way they can stay clean and sober is through AA/NA. Yet after years and decades of never sustaining any sobriety through 12 step programs, coffee commitments, completing the 12 steps with a sponsor many times, attending 90/90 and 5 meetings a week cant stay clean and sober? We push pills and forget to mention the alternatives or don’t even bother suggesting them because everyone one wants quick, simple, easier way and then they think that’s the answer for the rest of their life, just stay med compliant and I will feel well.

  10. Well, this article confirms for me BU’s continuing position of blame the student but pretend to help. My daughter (who is now doing well, has a full time management position, and is attending college full time, so is pretty adept at handling stress), went to the administration at the honors college for help with anxiety and was repeatedly blown off. She went to her RA and was blown off. She went to 4 professors and 1 ( yes, only one) tried to help and got her an appointment at the health center. Go ahead, blame the student, blame the parents ( although no one called even though she expressed suicidal ideation), but put some blame on the environment you create – one of taking pride in being tough (which is not the same as excellent).

  11. Although my transgender mtf daughter graduated w double degrees and very proud to be a BU alum, her 1st and only experience with the BU mental health department was a traumatic event. Upon opening up to what she believes was a grad student perhaps, definitely not a professional, she was met with a gasp, bewilderment and persuasion that this couldn’t be the right path for her. She left feeling lower than when she arrived and near suicidal. If this is any insight into BU’s mental health department, they have a long way to go. Feel free to pass my comment on to the department chair.

  12. College work is much harder than it was a few years back. It’s harder to get in, and harder to keep up decent grades for graduate schools. Parents are more neurotic than before, because they’re paying more, so the kids are more stressed out. And yes, like all doctors, some mental health practitioners are better than others so students should check out who they’re seeing before they do. Finally, yes, there needs to be some training for the faculty who are clueless when it comes to communicating with students.

  13. I think with more and more pressure in the study at college cause this kind of thing is hard to avoid. Perhaps the presence of friends to talk, share problems or issues that can reduce stress levels

  14. This piece “Growing Challenge, more students seeking help- a look behind the numbers,” I found to be a very touching person and overwhelmingly accurate research. As stated mental health has become a critical issue on college campuses effecting many lives across the country. Post graduate students are suffering depression, anxiety and all other different mental health issues. “Students are reporting significantly higher levels of anxiety, depression, and stress related problems then they have in the past,” i found to be a very interesting and interesting quote. The first question that pops into my head is why now? Why now is there an increase in post graduate depression among other times? Societal stressors? Peer pressure? Self Esteem? Salary? Making parents proud? These are all questions that i think about why one may experience post graduate depression. There is so much pressure put on a young adult once graduating in school to find a good job right away and start making money and use your degree to your full advantage, you don’t want to disappoint your parents. But what ever happened to human error? Isn’t it possible and humane for a person to change their mind in what they want to do for the rest of their lives, or maybe even explore and see what else could be out there? There is always the fear of worrying, “what am I going to do next” living in the future and not in the present is an anxiety prone trigger that may cause panic attacks or one to suffer from depression or anxiety. Moreover I found this research to be something a lot of people can relate to no matter what university is attended and could be further research to develop ways to prevent depression and anxiety in post graduate students.

  15. I think its really important topic, students have started taking drugs and other things to reduce depression and tension of studying. There should be counseling sessions that would improve thinking of students.

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