Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. – 1 Peter 5:6-7
This month my main writing focus has been mental health, specifically as it pertains to young adults attending college. One of the organizations I write for is targeting a significant grant to facilitate a broad range of interventions via campus ministry initiatives.
This is what news organizations call, “a breaking story.” A breaking story is something that is still unfolding. In the case of college mental health what we’re talking about is a crisis that has already been developing, will be front and center in the future, and is being intensified – significantly – by the impact of the persistent pandemic.
This is Real!
This is not, as one cynical retiree put it to me, a case of, “These snowflakes have always been coddled, they need to suck it up and get on with life like we did in my generation.”
“The mental health crisis is real,” said one member of the (Florida) Methodist Board of Higher Education and Campus Ministry. “COVID has only served to exacerbate an already troubling trend.”
In a pre-pandemic article dated February 2020, verywellmind.com reported the suicide rate among young adults (ages 15-24) has tripled since the 1950s (American College Health Association). Suicide is currently the second most common cause of death among college students.
Journalist Sarah Chamberlain, reporting in a “Special to the USA TODAY Network” article in early 2021, wrote that “The rise in student suicides is just the tip of the pandemic iceberg.”
Most telling, the people who work with college students and walk alongside them (learning what makes them tick and offering a spiritual foundation in the middle of their new life away from home) understand how important it is to look at this story seriously.
Campus to City Wesley Foundation student ministry director Derrick Scott put it this way:
“Before the pandemic I would have said I’d never seen the depth of anxiety and depression and personal instability that I am currently seeing… [Students] are holding all of this while still trying to make the best of this life; they’re trying to kill it at school, and at work, and at the same time holding so much mental un-health…
“And then COVID happened! Now students are online for everything. The overstimulation that comes with screen time. And they can’t touch other people. We don’t know the full impact yet.”
Screen time can be damaging:
Researchers writing for The International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction (Dec. 2019) had already concluded that, “overall increased screen time is associated with negative outcomes such as lowered self-esteem, increased incidence and severity of mental health issues and addictions, slowed learning and acquisition, and an increased risk of premature cognitive decline.” And that was before the majority of college classes migrated over to ZOOM calls.
All this is a lot to take in. I am simply trying to get a handle on it all myself so I can continue to produce cutting edge articles for my editors. Thanks for indulging me.
In the meanwhile, please pray for these young people in college. And reach out to them too, they could use all the support they can get.
Peace, in every way, and especially for our college students – DEREK