Wednesday, 27 June 2007

Students Should Cut The Net, Not Themselves

Students Should Cut The Net, Not Themselves
It used to be, if you wanted to "properly"express anger or frustration, you confront the source of your problems and register your complaints. At least, that's what we're told in school. But a wealth of studies indicate college students aren't dealing with their problems by getting help or finding other ways to resolve them. As a college student, I was stunned to learn that one of six of my peers opted to injure themselves intentionally rather than reaching out for help from their peers or institution.

College is a stressful time for everyone. The professors are overworked, underpaid, and in some cases under appreciated. Administrations need to operate on a budget and make their college attractive in light of the rising price of attendance. And the students have to navigate the "triangle of death", better known as future life, current life (class and work), and social life. Sometimes a friendly ear can be hard to find. As a Resident Assistant, we're trained to help students who may have problems adjusting or navigating through troubled waters. But the amount of students who come to us, or come to their student-counseling center pale in comparison to students who need help the most.

So what do these students do? Do they drink themselves stupid? No. That's for the weekend. Do they medicate themselves? Half of all Americans are on one prescription drug or another, so the odds are they're medicated already. According to the Associated Press, twenty-five percent of students who visit their counseling center take medication to deal with mental disorders. The seventy-five percent of students who don't? Most deal with it rationally by subjecting themselves to other forms of punishment, such as watching Comedy Central, going to the DMV, or attending a New York Mets game.

But then we have that one student out of every six. You might be wondering, what possesses that sixth person to injure themselves in the first place? Did they see "The Lake House" and want to put themselves out of their misery afterward? Maybe. But research of self-injury has shown people injure themselves for escapism, depression, and to exercise control over their life when they feel they've lost it. The rise of self-injury may indicate a greater existential crisis among today's college students.

This crisis is best be reflected by the growing popularity of social networking sites like Facebook. Students are flocking to them not because it's the trendy thing to do, but because students want to feel connected to each other. Some media outlets have it all wrong with their "Generation Tech" idea. The technology usage among young adults has more to do with community than leisure because there is no longer a sense of community among today's college students. With a growing number of transfer students, the emergence of non-traditional students, and the rise of in room entertainment has effectively choked the life out of vibrant college communities around the country. As the baby boomers and previous generations of college students will tell you, the social scene was completely different than it is now. Instead of interacting with neighbors, students camp out in their dorm talking online and surfing the Internet. And colleges have responded for the most part with silence and paternalistic measures like forcing Freshman to pass a test about the dangerous of alcohol before they can register for class.

If a student feels they have no control over their life, and no one to communicate with because their peers are all online watching sub par programming on YouTube, they're going to do foolish and potentially harmful things to resolve their issues. While an effective resolution to this problem may not be clear cut, the burden is on colleges around the country to focus more on student life than construction and paternalism. Parents need to do their part and ask the right questions to college administrators while students need to lose their World Of Warcraft account and reach out to their fellow students in need. That would be a rational choice for all of us.

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