Students and “Mental Illness”


At campus #1, after showing a video from TED on the science of happiness (Nancy Etcoff), a student comes up to me after class.

“It’s funny that you showed that video because I’m clinically depressed and that’s why I haven’t been to class.”

I believe this student. She’s not the first brilliant overachieving student I’ve had who has encountered problems due to the overwhelming amount of work and expectations.

“How are you taking care of yourself? How are you coping with your courseload?”

“I’m going to the doctor next week, and I’m spending more time at home with my family.”

I nod my head in agreement. We exchange for a few minutes about ways to manage the rest of the semester. She thanks me for my understanding.

As she left, I reflected on other situations I’ve encountered recently. Earlier in the semester, a student (also brilliant and a singer), was institutionalized again. She came back to class on heavy prescriptions and could not function. She had to drop the course.

In the institute of medicine, the pharmacological/pharmaceutical agenda is pervasive. Sure, the pill is available if you’re feeling down, but how did you get to that point? What is in your life that is unaddressed that causes this cycle to continue? How can your support network help you with building the skills to cope with your stresses? How can you heal?

These are questions I wish were asked more often. Instead, we diagnose and leave it at that, as if these mental illnesses were always present in our lives. It’s developmental. It wasn’t always this way; therefore we can revert to (or progress to) wholeness.

4 thoughts on “Students and “Mental Illness””

  1. This is totally interesting, and very pertinent to issues I've been thinking about and reading about lately. Western medicine (for physical and mental health) treats illnesses with drugs and therapy, but does not consider how to deal with (or how to think about) what caused these illnesses in the first place, or what we can do to stave them off in the future. But the "science of happiness" (or, at least, "contentment," or as the Buddhists would say, freedom from "suffering") is gaining more and more attention in our culture, a development that makes me … happy.

  2. Indeed, Ellen! We're definitely seeing the limitations of Western medicine, and I welcome the change!I'm very excited to see the next issue of FRiGG! Thanks for reading!

  3. I agree with Ellen, we treat symptoms not the root of the problem. We need a more holistic Eastern approach. With Erin's fresh energy coming back from India maybe we should start something??Just an idea..for the future.

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