We seem to be facing an epidemic of suicide amongst our young people.
“All universities are seeing an increase in the number of students struggling with anxiety. Students seem to be more stressed.” They can’t cope with the pressure of exams. “Marking schemes, in which exams count for 40 per cent or even 60 per cent, or multiple exams held on the same day, should be reviewed.”
“The number of students saying they seriously considered suicide in the prior year was 13 per cent, up 3.5 per cent from 2013, for example.”
I have a mental illness so I don’t take any of this lightly. But, and there is a but, it seems to me we are enabling our children to fall into the abyss of mental illness. They have been coddled from birth. They have not experienced failure. Everyone gets a prize. There are no “losers” in this life. And everyone is special. These children haven’t dealt with a bruise let alone a broken limb because there is no rough-housing in the schoolyard any more. I heard of one school where there are no balls to kick so the children found a can and kicked it. And feelings? Well, we are doing everything in our power to make sure children never experience the pain of rejection of any kind. They go off to university-virgins in life experience; body and soul.
And then discover that they have deadlines that are not extended. And pressure to perform.
Guelph University in Ontario is planning “to embed mental-health initiatives into the curriculum and in each course.”
That it comes to this speaks to serious problems in the education system from kindergarten to university. American writer Paul Tough in his book How Children Succeed, argued that children who do well have learned amongst other qualities, discipline, self-control and conscientiousness. Sadly,we are raising bubble-wrapped Snowflakes incapable of coping in school which is a safe place between living with mommy and being on your own.
While we read about these young people, there is a national tragedy taking place at Pikangikum First Nation.
Ontario Court Justice David Gibson called conditions in Pikangikum “a national disgrace,” noting a lack of running water or sewage, a persistent gas-sniffing problem and a suicide rate that has earned it the moniker “suicide capital of the world.”
These conditions are sadly not exclusive to Pikangikum.
Yes, it is a good thing that we now talk about mental health, anxiety, depression, and have taken mental illness out of the closet, but it seems to me, reading all of these stories, that we are now dealing with mental illness-depression and anxiety- caused by an inability to cope with a good life, or on the other side of the coin, living in hopeless conditions.
Either way, we are failing the next generation. And I don’t know about you, but I am exhausted from the talk. For those unable to cope in school-that can be helped by insisting that our children grow up with the right to fall down and pick themselves up-either physically or mentally. Failure is good. It teaches us how to do better the next time. It helps us develop coping skills. Little failures help us to deal with the big ones that come our way.
For the children of Pikangikum First Nation and other remote First Nations; there comes a time when a decision has to be made: move for the sake of your children and give them opportunity, or stay and while waiting forever for improved living conditions, lose more children.
Some mental illnesses cannot be avoided; it has to do with genetics and epigenetics; but situational mental illness-this we can and must fix.