“As many as one in four students at some elite U.S. colleges are now classified as disabled, largely because of mental-health issues such as depression or anxiety,” starts the Wall Street Journal’s recent report on the alarmingly high level of mental disorders and psychological problems currently plaguing America’s college students.
The Journal cites a few examples: California’s Pomona College has “22 percent of students … considered disabled this year, up from 5 percent in 2014.” At three Massachusetts colleges – Hampshire, Amherst and Smith – as well as Yeshiva University in New York, “one in five students are classified as disabled. At Oberlin College in Ohio, it’s one in four. At Marlboro College in Vermont, it’s one in three.” Think about that – one in every three students legally classified as “disabled.” (All it takes is a note from one’s doctor.)
Then there’s New York’s Vassar, Oregon’s Reed, Massachusetts’ Mount Holyoke and the University of Vermont, all with 16 percent of students psychologically disabled. At Haverford it’s 15 percent, Stanford 14 percent, Brown 12 percent, Yale 11 percent and Columbia 8 percent.
It’s the same story whether at elite private colleges or big public state universities. And since around 20 million young people currently attend U.S. colleges, such percentages suggest the number of mentally disabled students runs into the millions.
The Journal’s report focuses on the accommodations being offered under federal law to depressed, anxious, attention-impaired or otherwise psychologically “disabled” students, such as allowing them to keep “comfort animals” with them, providing specially soundproofed rooms for test-taking, and – very controversially – giving them up to twice the amount of time to take tests as that allotted to other students.
After all, “If you grade on a curve, does it disadvantage the rest of the class?” asks Boston University professor of electrical and computer engineering Ari Trachtenberg, according to the Journal. Likewise, attorney Miriam Kurtzig Freedman, author of several books on educational accommodations, says allowing some students more time than others to take the SAT is “like lowering the basket from 10 feet to 8 feet; you’re changing the game.” She adds, “The reason we pay all this money for the test is so that we can compare someone from South Dakota to someone from California. If the test is no longer standardized, then what are we paying for?”
‘Teaching students to think pathologically’
But wait. Accommodations for handicapped students may be a worthy topic of discussion, but where is the most important part of the story – the exploration of why millions of American college students are becoming mysteriously “disabled” by “mental-health issues”?
The Journal report includes just one sentence addressing causes: “Psychologists have many theories to explain the rise in mental-health diagnoses among college-age students, from social-media habits to less stigma around mental illness.”
So what’s really going on?
One online report, “The top mental health challenges facing students,” cites depression, anxiety, eating disorders, addiction and suicide as the top issues, and the American Psychological Association, in its “Campus Mental Health” report, bemoans rising levels of “sexual assault and self-injury” and the need to “develop suicide prevention programs.” But there’s not much exploration of causes.
Moreover, even when causes are addressed, the giant elephant in the room is almost always ignored.
Thus, one psychiatrist, writing an op-ed headlined “1 in 5 college students have anxiety or depression. Here’s why,” cites the usual suspects – “excessive social media use,” “mobile phone addiction,” “cyberbullying,” the “rising cost of college” (leading to “dread of debt”) and other stressors. To his credit, he also revealingly cites the “skyrocket[ing] … number of requests I receive from high school and college students and their parents for stimulants such as Ritalin and Adderall” to help junior perform better on “major exams, such as finals, the MCAT or the LSAT.”
Ritalin and Adderall are, of course, front-line psychostimulant drugs given to millions (yes, millions) of American school kids for the treatment of a medical condition that didn’t officially exist a generation ago, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.
While a society like today’s America, which is increasingly divided, angry and morally rudderless, naturally gives rise to a multitude of factors that can and do contribute to psychological problems in college students, what is all but ignored in most reporting is the toxic nature of the college experience itself.
Back in 2015, a viral video documented almost 60 Yale students enthusiastically signing a petition to repeal the First Amendment – which, ironically, guarantees their own right to freedom of speech, religion, the press, assembly and to petition! Since then, American college campuses have continually been the scene of wild, rage-filled, often-violent rebellion against the most basic American freedoms – particularly the right to free speech.
In response to such campus madness, many have sounded the alarm, saying America’s top schools are morphing into a cross between totalitarian indoctrination facilities and daycare centers.
Yet underlying the ongoing public spectacles of “the war on free speech,” “political correctness run amok,” “micro-aggressions” (harmless statements with no malintent but nevertheless deemed aggressive attacks on “minority populations”) and the leftist indoctrination of America’s next generation, there is a deeper and even more troubling reality gripping today’s college campuses.
After all, the stunning rise in cases of mental illness on campus is not new. For several years now, depression rates have skyrocketed and suicide has become the second most common cause of death among college students.
In a nutshell, college has become an environment that powerfully promotes, exacerbates and arguably causes what we have come to call “mental illness.”
For example: According to recent peer-reviewed research, the ubiquitous campus “hook-up” culture of promiscuous, casual sex causes “higher levels of depression” (not to mention sexual violence and STDs) in college women. Then there’s the popular “Sex Week” program, birthed at Yale, but now held annually at Harvard, Brown and dozens of other top-rated schools. “Sex Week” prominently features panels of porn stars, graphic sex tips (including how-to workshops on anal sex and BDSM-flogging), free condoms and much more.
Do you suppose all this might promote “mental-health issues”? For countless young people, their college experience annihilates their innocence and sows within them tremendous inner conflict, anxiety, guilt and self-loathing. This conflict, in turn, is often breezily diagnosed as “depression” and masked with powerful and poorly understood psychiatric drugs with fearsome side effects.
Then there’s the influential cover story in The Atlantic, “The Coddling of the American Mind” (an expanded book version will be released in September), revealing that what is happening on today’s college campuses, especially with regard to policing speech and punishing “offenders,” is – pay close attention now – “likely to engender patterns of thought that are surprisingly similar to those long identified by cognitive behavioral therapists as causes of depression and anxiety. The new protectiveness may be teaching students to think pathologically.” (And this is not a conservative diatribe; one of the two Atlantic co-authors, Jonathan Haidt, is a self-described “liberal atheist” psychologist.)
All of this is on top of the baseline reality that for decades, left-wing America-hating professors have been indoctrinating America’s children into believing their country is malevolent, racist and predatory – successful and powerful only by virtue of exploiting other races and stealing the world’s wealth.
Thus, many of our colleges today are not only ripping off young Americans’ morality and virtue, not just intimidating and confusing them with crackpot gender-identity social-justice theories, not content merely to continue cranking out thousands of leftist radical clones – young adults indoctrinated in the angry, self-righteous but deluded worldview of the far left. No, they are now programming these young Americans to take offense at the slightest wrong – or even at no wrong at all. (For example, being white is now an offense, under the guilt-trip label of “white privilege.” An American girl wearing a Chinese dress to her prom is guilty of “cultural appropriation,” earning her international scorn on social media.) In other words, students today are literally being taught to hate, to blame, “to think pathologically,” to see themselves as victims and to demonize and silence those who hold contrary views. In this way, they become essentially incapable of functioning competently and responsibly in the real world.
One more thing: If the overwhelming object of the American academy with its almost entirely left-wing professorate is to produce leftist progressives, it’s reasonable to ask: What is the mental-health profile of those on the political left, compared with the rest of America?
In an extensive series of surveys involving more than 4,000 interviews conducted over the course of four years, Gallup pollsters found that Republicans had “significantly” better mental health than Democrats, with Independents ranking in-between the two parties.
“One could be quick to assume,” says Gallup’s analysis, “that these differences [in mental health] are based on the underlying demographic and socioeconomic patterns related to party identification in America today,” noting that “men, those with higher incomes, those with higher education levels, and whites are more likely than others to report excellent mental health. Some of these patterns describe characteristics of Republicans, of course.” However, Gallup revealed,
an analysis of the relationship between party identification and self-reported excellent mental health within various categories of age, gender, church attendance, income, education, and other variables shows that the basic pattern persists regardless of these characteristics. In other words, party identification appears to have an independent effect on mental health even when each of these is controlled for.
Likewise, a survey commissioned by BuzzFeed found that Democrats suffered mental illness notably more than Republicans in almost every category:
Does being a Democrat – or a Republican – mean you’re more prone to depression, anxiety, or other mental ailments? To find out, BuzzFeed partnered with SurveyMonkey [which provides data collection and analysis for Facebook, Virgin America, Samsung and others] to ask Americans about their political affiliation and whether or not they’d ever been diagnosed with any of 12 mental health conditions and learning disabilities. SurveyMonkey Audience conducted the online survey exclusively for BuzzFeed, gathering a randomly selected, nationally representative sample of 1,117 people.
Key survey results, which showed that Democrats were roughly twice as likely to have been diagnosed with a mental disorder as Republicans, included: Post-traumatic stress disorder (Democrats 7.95 percent, Republicans 3.97 percent), ADD/ADHD (Democrats 9.13 percent, Republicans 3.97 percent), anxiety (Democrats 20.84 percent, Republicans 10.26 percent) and depression (Democrats 34.43 percent, Republicans 23.51 percent).
In fact, in every category polled – dyslexia, ADD/ADHD, Asperger’s/autism, depression, anxiety, OCD, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, PTSD, narcissistic personality disorder, anorexia and bulimia – Democrats reported higher incidences then Republicans, except for dyslexia.
In the end, today’s young people – just like those of previous generations – are smart, energetic, ambitious and idealistic, but also inexperienced, insecure, naïve and easily influenced by their environment.
Which means, if their environment is psychologically sick, many will become infected.
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