ANALYSIS: When it comes to mental health, universities won't address the elephant in the room
As Surgeon General Vivek Murthy and six other experts gather in Hanover, New Hampshire, they are unlikely to acknowledge the elephant in the room: their host.
Dartmouth belongs to a broken higher education system that leaves students indebted, indoctrinated, and instilled with social norms that lead to misery.
Thursday, current and former Surgeons General will meet at Dartmouth College to discuss the causes of and solutions to the nation’s mental health crisis.
But as Surgeon General Vivek Murthy and six other experts gather in Hanover, New Hampshire, they are unlikely to acknowledge the elephant in the room: their host. Dartmouth belongs to a broken higher education system that leaves students indebted, indoctrinated, and instilled with social norms that lead to misery.
The study surveyed over 76,000 college students, finding that “41% reported symptoms of depression, 36% suffered anxiety, and 14% reported having suicidal thoughts during the past year,” according to Forbes. 36% of surveyed students “sought mental health counseling/therapy,” a service that is harder to come by on campus with notoriously underfunded counseling centers.
The cause of the crisis depends on the source, but Murthy has written extensively about loneliness as an epidemic on par with addiction and obesity. He has also identified the damage that social media does to mental health – a concern he shares with New York University (NYU) psychologist Jonathan Haidt, who sounded the alarm in February over the fragility of Generation Z.
While Murthy and Haidt write about the general population, Verywell Mind, a mental health site, names causes of depression specific to college students such as managing finances, “fitting in with their peers in a new setting,” and “experiment[ing] with alcohol and drugs.”
On top of the typical college stressors, there are generational differences that make Gen Z especially depressed.
Verywell Mind reports that students became isolated during the pandemic, and they struggled socially and academically with their return to in-person classes. The site lists “other concerns” that “include environmental worries, climate anxiety, political turmoil, [and] social justice issues.”
Given these concerns, however, universities are doing everything in their power to worsen students’ mental health.
Instead of alleviating financial burdens, universities continuously raise tuition. Instead of encouraging social connection, they teach students to sidestep connection by engaging in meaningless sex with their peers, and they conduct DEI training that divides students by race.
And instead of showing students how to cope with climate anxiety or dissenting opinions on social justice issues, universities stoke “doomerism,” the sentiment coined by Vox co-founder Matthew Yglesias, which is described as a pessimistic outlook that stems from leftists’ hysterical political rhetoric, as Campus Reform reported.
The real harm to students comes from the administrators behind these initiatives, but their universities reward their administrators, often growing their administrations in place of investing in something that would really help students’ mental health, like expanding their counseling centers.
Dartmouth, the site of the mental health summit, chose in 2023 to outsource some of its counseling to an online provider. Outsourcing is an increasingly common practice that was recently criticized by college counselors because it matches students with providers who are unfamiliar with the campus culture.
Dartmouth doesn’t appear to be adding in-person counseling positions, either.
The university’s new president, who supposedly prioritizes mental health, announced the creation of a senior staff position in September 2023 to oversee health and wellness. The move seems to be one that will enrich an administrator through a make-work job rather than provide students with much-needed mental health services.
Universities like Dartmouth pose themselves as mental health think tanks while doing nothing to actually solve the crisis.
As the administrations of Dartmouth and other universities become even more bloated, students find themselves trapped in a feedback loop. Administrators introduce another DEI initiative, another campaign for sex positivity, or another effort to quash debate. In the process, they worsen the mental health of students who are coming to college already fragile.
It’s probably not the case that university administrators are scheming to create the conditions that depress students, but the state of mental health on college campuses is a consequence of growing bureaucracies that promote the very things that make people unhappy.
If administrative bureaucracies are harming students, then the solution to the mental health crisis is to go the way of Florida and burst their leftist administrative bubbles.
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