A surge in anxiety, mental breakdowns, depression and stress is sweeping British university campuses. Above all, a growing proportion just seem terrified of failure, and experience the whole process of learning and assessment as an unforgiving ordeal that offers no room for creativity or mistakes,” says William Davies, lecturer at Goldsmiths and author of The Happiness Industry, a book about the commercialisation of wellbeing. One study found that six times more young people in England (aged four to 24) have psychological problems today than a generation ago, in 1995. (The Guardian 27/09)
This is obviously a difficult and fraught subject that touches on a host of issues, including parenting, social media, the perceived job market and other factors.
My personal take will be ferociously unpopular, but it has an Epicurean aspect. I was one of the last people to do British National Service, in the Army. I was 18 when I joined up and nearly 21 when I went up to university. It was the first time I had encountered unforgiving discipline and encountered at close quarters young men of very different backgrounds who had been working for two or three years, were street- smart and, compared with me, were grown-up young adults. Great guys!
I ended up commanding , as a second lieutenant, 45 men under active service in a shooting/ bombing/damn dangerous environment, making life and death decisions sometimes. In short, postponing university grew me up rather quickly, taught me respect and consideration for people of all backgrounds, how to manage men and inspire (hopefully) respect in them, to darn socks and sew on buttons (literal and figurative).
You can spot where I am going with this. Cosseted youngsters are leaving home, often for the first time, far too young, having had little experience of standing on their own feet and making their own decisions. Most are not even taking a year off to travel the world ( called a “gap year” in the UK), even if all that means is sitting on a beach in Thailand and drinking too much beer. If nothing else, this gets kids away from home, taking responsibility for themselves, without messing up their future careers.
Tomorrow, I will report and comment on the views on this subject of two Americans who have studied the epidemic that has hit college students: psychologist B. Janet Hibbs and Dr. Anthony Rostain.