Campus crisis: the broken generation

Why so many of our best and brightest students report feeling hopeless, depressed, even suicidal

by Kate Lunau

The Broken Generation

Sándor Fizli

In late August, as the first leaves changed from green to red and gold, university ghost towns were coming back to life. Residences were dusted out. Classrooms were readied. Textbooks were purchased—and new outfits, new computers, new posters to decorate dorm room walls. Amid this bustle, construction workers at Cornell University began installing steel mesh nets under seven bridges around campus. They overlook the scenic gorges for which Ithaca, N.Y., is known; in early 2010, they were the sites of three Cornell student suicides of a total of six that year. Students cross the bridges daily on their way to class.

Cornell’s bridge nets are the latest and most visible sign that the best and brightest are struggling. In an editorial in the Cornell Daily Sun following the 2010 suicides, president David J. Skorton acknowledged these deaths are just “the tip of the iceberg, indicative of a much larger spectrum of mental health challenges faced by many on our campus and on campuses everywhere.”

Last year, Ryerson University’s centre for student development and counselling in Toronto saw a 200 per cent increase in demand from students in crisis situations: “homeless, suicidal, really sick,” says Dr. Su-Ting Teo, director of student health and wellness. Colleagues at other schools noticed the same. “I’ve met with different key people. They’re saying last year was the worst they’ve ever seen,” says psychologist Gail Hutchinson, director of Western University’s student development centre in London. “The past few years, it’s been growing exponentially.” Fully a quarter of university-age Canadians will experience a mental health problem, most often stress, anxiety or depression.

One need only to look at the results of a 2011 survey of 1,600 University of Alberta students to know something is very wrong. About 51 per cent reported that, within the past 12 months, they’d “felt things were hopeless.” Over half felt “overwhelming anxiety.” A shocking seven per cent admitted they’d “seriously considered suicide,” and about one per cent had attempted it. These problems aren’t unique to U of A. “It’s across all of North America,” says Robin Everall, provost fellow for student mental health.

Click for five expert tips for students to reduce stress and anxiety.

In March 2010, first-year Queen’s University student Jack Windeler died by suicide. “He did well in school, was active in sports, and we thought he was ultimately prepared to go to university,” his father, Eric Windeler, says. But Jack, who seems to have been suffering from depression, had begun withdrawing from friends. “It seemed to go amiss,” Windeler says, “and go amiss very fast.”

In the 14 months that followed, five more Queen’s students (all male) died suddenly, three by suicide. “It was a very difficult period,” says Queen’s principal Daniel Woolf. In the wake of these deaths, he established a commission on mental health to see what could be done. Its panel of five members—two administrators, the head of the school of nursing, one student, and chair Dr. David Walker, former health sciences dean—met once a week for eight months, and heard from students, parents and others.

The Queen’s commission was, in some ways, influenced by Cornell’s experience. That university has grappled with the label of “suicide school,” a reputation Tim Marchell, director of mental health initiatives, acknowledges, but insists is a misperception. Cornell’s student suicide rate resembles that of other universities and colleges across the U.S. What’s different is that at Cornell, nearly half of suicides occurred at the city’s public gorges. The fact is Cornell’s mental health initiatives have been a model to other schools. Cornell’s bridge nets are just a small, if highly visible, part of its overall mental health strategy—an effort aimed at restricting access in case of impulsive suicides, not unlike keeping firearms locked inside a cabinet.

At Queen’s, a final report from the commission is due in October. A discussion paper, delivered in June, offered a range of reasons students are grappling with mental health problems: everything from the stress of moving away from home, to academic demands, social pressures, parents’ expectations, and a looming recognition of the tough job market awaiting them. More students than ever are entering university with a pre-existing diagnosis of mental illness, and there’s less stigma attached to getting help. This partly explains the flood that counsellors are seeing. But there’s something else going on, too. Some wonder if today’s students are having difficulty coping with the rapidly changing world around them, a world where they can’t unplug, can’t relax, and believe they must stay at the top of their class, no matter what.

The stress of it all is a huge burden to bear. In preliminary findings from an unpublished study involving several U.S. schools, Cornell psychologist Janis Whitlock found 7.5 per cent of students who started university with no history of mental illness developed some symptoms. About five per cent who did have a previous history of mental illness saw symptoms increase while at university. She says, “there’s probably never been a more complicated time to be growing up than right now.”

The truth is, it’s never been easy to be young. People in their late teens and early twenties are at the highest risk for mental illness; in these years, first episodes of psychiatric disorders like major depression are most likely to appear. After motor vehicle accidents, suicide is the leading cause of death in Canadians aged 10 to 24, the Queen’s report notes. In this delicate life period, people move out on their own, strike up new relationships, experiment with drugs and alcohol, and assume new responsibilities. At college or university, they could be away from friends and family who know them best—people who might better recognize the warning signs of mental illness, like social withdrawal, increasing anxiety, a growing inability to cope, or other changes in behaviour.

If some pressures are age-old, others are brand new. Students are competing more fiercely to win a spot in top universities: the average grade of incoming students at Queen’s in 2011 was 88.1 per cent, up from 87.4 in 2007. At the University of Virginia, 90 per cent of students are from the top 10 per cent of their high school classes, according to Joseph Davis, associate professor of sociology. But only 10 per cent of those high achievers can leave UVA with the same distinction. “Students experience it as a kind of downward mobility,” he says. “Maybe you were in your high school gifted program, and suddenly you’re no longer the brightest student in the room. You might not even be close.”

Davis’s student Katherine Moriarty surveyed UVA undergrads about the illegal use of prescription stimulants, like Adderall and Ritalin, to get an academic edge. Of 525 respondents, 20 per cent said they’d used stimulants non-medically at least once in their lifetimes, most commonly to “improve academic performance,” “study more efficiently” and “increase wakefulness.” Other motives—recreational use at parties, or weight loss—were deemed less important than academic ones.

Students might feel they have little choice but to compete as hard as they can. Tuition costs are rising, and the job market looks grim. In July, the unemployment rate for Canadians aged 15 to 29 was nearly 12 per cent; having an undergraduate degree doesn’t make job candidates stand out like it once did. After graduation, often weighed down by student debt, many will have to string together short-term contracts with unpaid internships—and even those can be hard to get. “Students say, ‘I need to know what I’m doing now,’ ” Hutchinson says. “ ‘I need to get into this or that program, because the world is scary and I see people out of work.’ ”

The postings to Kids Help Phone’s Ask Us Online counselling service give a hint of how dire the future can seem. “Im a 2nd year University student and the #1 thing that has been on my mind is marks!” one writes. “im worried that im not going to be able to get into teachers college and if I dont get into teachers college I really dont know what to do! In High School I was an overachiever but now in the real world it is more of a challenge! Things just seem so hopeless right now and I can barely sleep because of the stress.”

Another says, “My parents want me to become a doctor. My mom puts a lot of pressure on me. I have chemistry which I dislike, although I loved it in high school. I’m not sure why that is, maybe it’s because it has become much harder, and im so use to just ‘getting it’ that i dont feel like putting the extra effort, even though i know i should.” Students seem to be under more pressure than ever from home. Part of it could be due to the fact that families are smaller, Hutchinson suggests, so students carry a bigger piece of their parents’ expectations. Failing a class, or an exam, can seem disastrous.

Miranda struggled with depression most of her life. When she moved to Toronto to attend Ryerson, the 22-year-old (who asked not to use her last name for fear it could jeopardize her chances with future employers) found her symptoms worsening. By her second year, she was suffering from more frequent panic attacks. “I realized I was struggling, and tried to reach out for help, but [Ryerson’s is] a very widely utilized program,” she says. “There was a very, very long wait list. They do their best to find you help, but in the rest of the city, wait lists are just as long.”

Miranda was eventually referred to a counsellor at St. Joseph’s Health Centre in Toronto, but didn’t feel she was improving. Halfway through her third year, Miranda—who’d been living with a roommate—moved into her own place. “My mental health issues peaked the first summer I lived by myself,” she says. “I got bedbugs, and that was it.” She packed up and moved in with her grandparents. Finally, afraid she might hurt herself, she went to the ER and was held in a psychiatric intensive-care unit for eight days. “The resources at Ryerson weren’t helping,” she says. “That seemed like the best option.”

Ryerson has three full-time equivalent (FTE) family physicians and half an FTE psychiatrist, Teo says, as well as 14 counsellors, three of them psychologists. (After last year’s demand, two more counsellors were added.) With such a small staff, and a student body of 28,300, it’s no wonder on-campus mental health care resources can feel stretched to the limit. (Cornell has 30.6 FTE mental health professionals to serve 22,000 students.) At Ryerson, those in crisis can usually see somebody the same day “or the next at the latest,” Teo says. “If you’re not as urgent, that’s when the wait comes in.” The goal is to get each student an appointment within two weeks, says Teo, “but last year, because of the level of severity, the wait became much longer. Maybe three or four times as long.”

After Miranda got out of the hospital, and as she adjusted to new medication, her family helped her get back on her feet. She graduated from Ryerson in the spring. She’s now working an unpaid internship, hoping to land a job in communications. “It’s as promising as it is terrifying. There’s so much unknown,” she says. “Not knowing where your next paycheque is going to come from; working 60 hours a week. A lot of people I know, whether they have mental health issues or not, have trouble balancing it all.” She sometimes sits outside her building, chatting with older women who live on her street. “They say, ‘We wouldn’t trade with you to be young again.’ ”

Some problems are the natural ups and downs of life, like a bad mark or a sloppy roommate. There’s a question of whether today’s young adults are somehow less equipped to cope. “Not all pressures can be removed,” says Woolf, principal of Queen’s. “There is pressure just by going to university, or doing anything in life.” When he was in university in the 1970s, he recalls, students didn’t fret so much about their marks, or employment prospects after graduation.

“If we got a bad mark, it was ‘Too bad, on to the next one,’ ” Woolf says. “There’s a generation of students now—and I’m not saying it’s every student—but a tendency to want to be a winner in all that they do. They all get a trophy at field day; they all get a treat bag at the party; and then they get to university and suddenly find they’re now playing in a different league, and no longer necessarily the smartest in their class.” Woolf is quick to note that serious, long-term mental health struggles are a different matter.

The ability to cope is an acquired skill, and one that takes time to learn. “I speak to parents who insist their children not take summer jobs so they can go to summer school, to get the best marks,” says Trent University psychology professor James Parker, who holds the Canada Research Chair in Emotion and Health. “I say, ‘I’m not sure that’s the best strategy.’ ” It’s often at those summer jobs that kids learn resiliency: serving coffee, waiting on tables and dealing with demanding bosses and crabby customers. Overprotective parents may think they’re helping their kids, but once these kids arrive on campus, small problems can seem overwhelming.

Getting over the hurdles of life takes time for introspection, and that’s also in short supply. Students aren’t left alone with their thoughts on the bus to school or the walk across campus. They’re texting, listening to music, checking Facebook or Twitter, often all at once. There’s no time to mull over difficult, complicated emotions, and no immediate reason to do it, either.

In a 2011 study of eight U.S. universities, Whitlock, who is director of the Cornell Research Program on Self-Injurious Behaviors, found that 15 per cent of students had cut, burned or otherwise injured themselves. This behaviour is most common at the end of the day, when they’re supposed to be winding down into sleep. “It’s terrifying for them,” Whitlock says. “They can’t make that transition. They don’t have experience with it.”

Mariette Lee couldn’t wait to become a student at McMaster University in Hamilton. Toward the end of her second year, she began to feel overwhelmed. “I was trying to do too much simultaneously, to be the perfect student,” says Lee, 22. She began skipping class, and she wasn’t eating right; she became increasingly withdrawn, gripped by sadness or anxiety for reasons she couldn’t understand. “I remember sitting in class, and a whole hour would go by without me realizing it.” It wasn’t until a friend reached out to her—one who said he himself had a mental illness—that Lee understood she needed to talk to someone.

Lee got help, first at the campus health clinic, and then at St. Joseph’s Healthcare in Hamilton. She was diagnosed with depression. At first, Lee was shy about sharing her diagnosis, but once she saw others were supportive, she opened up. “If people don’t talk about it, they won’t recognize the signs,” she says. Lee, who’s beginning her fourth year, is now president of COPE McMaster, a student club. This fall, they’re holding their first-ever “Move for Mental Health” five-kilometre run, with the purpose of speaking openly about depression and other mood disorders.

Student-run mental health programs are an increasingly important resource. At the University of King’s College in Halifax, Stephanie Duchon, 23, appears on posters that say, “I am not my mental illness.” Duchon, an organizer with the King’s Mental Health Awareness Collective, came up with the idea. “I’ve suffered from depression for 12 years,” she says. “By coming out to the community, I’m hoping others will do the same.”

Alongside students’ own efforts, university administrators are introducing an ever-growing number of programs. Queen’s, Cornell and others instruct faculty and staff on how to look for warning signs that could signal a student in crisis, making it a campus-wide effort. The Queen’s report mentions initiatives at other institutions as possible models, like Bounce Back, at Carleton University, which sets up undergrads who receive less than a 60 per cent average in their first semester with an upper-year mentor. Teo, of Ryerson, sits on the board of the Canadian Association of College and University Student Services, which has a mental health working group, partnered with the Canadian Mental Health Association, to study best practices in Canada and abroad. And Everall, at the University of Alberta, is producing a report on campus mental health services and best practices elsewhere, due in 2013.

Universities are still trying to define their exact role when it comes to students’ mental health. “We are not a treatment facility,” Woolf says. “Our role is education and research, and to some degree, community service. That said, we do have a care and nurturing role over the young people that come to us.” Eric Windeler believes that mental health and well-being of students should rank alongside academics. “If students are healthy and happy, it will help them succeed academically and socially,” he says.

Following Jack’s death, Windeler and his family made a decision: to be open about what happened and to encourage others to seek help. They partnered with Kids Help Phone to launch the Jack Project, aimed at supporting young people through the transition period from high school to college. Over 20 high schools and 12 post-secondary institutions in Ontario joined in the Jack Project’s year-long pilot, involving a series of workshops and presentations, which wrapped up in June. Windeler is a full-time volunteer.

As he and others, like Lee and Duchon, come forward, the stigma around mental health issues can only diminish. In her work with COPE McMaster, Lee has been surprised to learn just how many people have struggled, but didn’t admit it, or couldn’t. “When we run events, people say, ‘Thank you, I never would have felt comfortable before talking about this,’ ” Lee says. “It does feel good.”

Mental health on campus

In 2011, 1,600 University of Alberta students took part in the National College Health Assessment survey. The problems students identified are playing out across the country.

Mental health issue experienced at any time within the last 12 months

Felt things were hopeless: 51.3

Felt overwhelmed by all you had to do: 87.5

Felt exhausted (not from physical activity): 87.1

Felt very lonely: 61.7

Felt very sad: 65.6

Felt so depressed that is was difficult to function: 34.4

Felt overwhelming anxiety: 52.1

Felt overwhelming anger: 40.7

Experienced more than average stress: 57.1

Seriously considered suicide: 6.8

Attempted Suicide: 1.2

U of A Total %




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Campus crisis: the broken generation

  1. And yet another area where if we made it a priority to invest in post-secondary education, we could make a measurable positive difference in the world. Simply making it so that students who graduate have no tuition debt to worry about would take off a lot of the stress from these students, and encourage even more people to see if they could succeed at a post-secondary education.

    • Although the stress of finances no doubt impact these issues, today’s students with no financial burdens are just as likely to suffer from mental illness even if there are no pressures from home. It is much more challenging for these students to get into grad school or find their first job than for any previous generation. Social media has added a tremendous pressure to their lives. The reality is – it is much tougher now than it ever was to be a university student. Its really not a surprise they are finding their lives challenging. I understand these issues well – our university attending child struggles through each day with severe depression.

    • Rich kids at Cornell are also committing suicide. This obviously isn’t a simple matter of expensive tuitions. I’d be interested in comparing Quebec students’ mental health with the rest of Canada, given that they pay on average half what the rest of the country does. Anecdotal evidence doesn’t suggest much of a difference.

      • And so what’s the common denominator? Twelve years of abuse by University-teachers beforehand. Clearly the curriculum and method of administration used by the University-educated teacher causes mental illness for a substantial portion of the student body. Historically, student bodies were self-governing. Today, the University nitwits Lord it over them. Lack of freedom causes brain damage, because slavery is unnatural and can only be imposed by causing neurological damage to the liberty-centers in the nervous system.

        • I don’t know how many teachers you had to avoid to believe that the brain has “liberty-centres,” but I’ll say this much—it’s unprecedentedly difficult for university teaching staff today, as well. (Google any article on university adjuncts, PhD underemployment, or adjunct salaries, particularly in the US.) University teaching staff and university administration are not the same bodies. The idea that post-secondary instructors enforce slavery is frankly absurd.

  2. It’s tough for students these days, even if you do have a support system. I’m one of those students that has to jugle a part time job and studying at the same time. It’s very easy to feel drained and hopeless at the end of the day because really, university doesn’t really mean as much as it did before. Now, on top of a degree you have to volunteer, do an internship, etc. Then add trying to balance family life and a social life, as well as getting a good night’s sleep and physical activity, all of which are essential for a person’s well being. It’s very easy to question what’s the point of it all and feel traped and depressed. I’m not saying it’s supposed to be easy, but I think we’re reaching a point where there is just so much demanded out of young people that this stress is causing potential life long damage to our bodies, our emotions and our relationships. But sadly, there seems to be no choice.

    • My daughter will be off to college in 2 years. I don’t know about her but I’m scared.

      • Do some research on where the jobs will be over the next 10 years then choose her program based on that. Health care and health technology will expand due to the aging population as well as resource engineering technology. Finance and accounting are old standbys. Just a few examples. Georgian College in Barrie has a 95% placement rate and most other CCs are close to that. She can always upgrade to a university degree later on, which a lot of working people have done.

    • There’s absolutely a choice. I look at the new grads coming into our organization (I’m early 30s, work in management, in marketing, big box retail), I see a ton of talent, positivity, and confidence. They believe they can affect positive corporate change and they’re getting the opportunity to do so.

      Quite frankly, those falling through the cracks are victims of expectations. You don’t need a 95% average in Grade 12, you don’t need an honours B.Comm at 21, you don’t need to be a doctor or a lawyer or a finance whiz or a nuclear physicist. You need to work, you need to travel, you need to compete and get beaten, you need social interaction and healthy debate. you need to pursue what you love and what makes you happy and nothing more.

      Parents have coddled/pressured their children to grow up to be naive, spoiled, one-dimensional bookworms with zero resilience and character, because in their day a university degree meant success and an MBA meant early retirement and a cabin on a lake for the summer weekends, and if you get those pieces, all will be fine… and what that’s created is a Ritalin-fueled lemming charge for a piece of paper, and what it’s spitting out of top programs into the workforce is a bunch of socially numb and psychological frail young men and women who can offer nothing in the realm of ideas, innovations, social grace, collaboration, and leadership.

      Embrace your passions, learn to work and learn with others, treat people well, and invest your time, mind, and energy into projects and causes that you love. Do that and you’ll be happy and successful.

      • This comment was deleted.

        • Make lemonade. I’m graduating with a ton of debt (nearly 100K), and a lot of my colleagues are too. It sucks. It’s a more challenging situation than what our parents were stuck with. But it is what it is, and complaining won’t help. This guy was actually being positive, saying that young people are full of optimism and ideas, and this is your response? I’m sorry but debt or no debt, your lack of employability is due to your attitude. There are jobs out there that pay more than subsistence.

          Sick of my generation whining.

        • I find it deliciously ironic that you absolutely EXPLODE on the author of a decent, reasonable, moderate post because he dared to suggest that your generation has not been adequately prepared to handle life’s challenges. Hell, you can’t even handle some constructive criticism couched in encouragement at both ends. It’s as though you set out to proove his “socially frail” assessment.

          And if you think that today’s levels of unemployment are “insane”, you really have had a sheltered existance. Your living memory obviously does not extend back to the early 1990s. In the early 1990s, even minimum wage jobs were tough to find. I pity you if things ever get that bad again. I know I’ll survive it. I did already. Not so confident about your prospects though. I’d forget about that cabin if I were you.

          • You asshole, things ARE that bad for our generation. This is Depression 2.0, and do not trot out that tired bullshit about ‘the recession is over’. That’s what they said until 1935 or so. “Good Times Are Just Ahead!” Your condescending attitude, as though no one has the write to be pissed off to their bones about this situation, and should just be quietly happy whenever anyone pats our heads and says ‘there there, it will be all right’, is quite obscene.

          • This coming form someone that can’t even correctly determine when to use “write” vs. “right”? Wow.

          • @Content Grad Student: yeah, that’s really the heart of his message. One day you will make a fine assistant professor. You can give the empty-headed kids who use “write” and “right” correctly A plusses, and you can give the bright kids who read/rite phonetically failing grades because, after all, it’s not like you have any idea what intelligence is, if you think using right vs. write is _at all_ important.

          • I can’t help but laugh endlessly at your posting, Jack. The arguments from Angry Grad Student completely fall flat and leave no room for discourse given he’s being entitled and absurd. He can’t even use the correct words to convey his ill-prepared thoughts that are at best described as bitter, entitled rants. As such, he (and you, for that matter) will get my condescending remarks. Good day!

          • @Content Grad Student: I am glad you got a laugh! Do you not notice how everything you say is empty, bubbly metaphor? The argument “falls flat”, “leaves no room”?

            I am sorry, calling someone “bitter” and “entitled” is not scholarly—I know you know that; I am sure you try much harder when wanking onto paper for your professors, so why not here? What is incorrect about his thesis, to wit, that we’re in a place now that mirrors the mid 1930s. You know what comes after the mid 1930s, right? WWII.

            I seriously hope you’re right, that he’s just “bitter” and “entitled.” But I can’t say for sure—I think he’s onto something, something that your “phenotype”, to use a University word, doesn’t like to admit; you rather stuff your fingers in your ears and chant “la la la, you’re bitter and angry, la la la, can’t hear you.”

            I re-iterate my comment that you will one day make a fine assistant professor—your condescending personality and pedantic focus on irrelevant minutia will serve you very well. The question on every intelligent person’s mind, tho, is cui bono? Is it to anyone’s benefit but your own?

            The bigger issue here is that the University system is showing signs of being outdated and harmful—except for promoting people like you and causing mental anguish in those not of your “go along to get along” phenotype. Should we scar everyone just so that people like you can condescendingly play assistant professor?

          • The bigger issue here is that the University system is showing signs of being outdated and harmful…

            That’s the first intelligent thing you said. Trust me, university has been that way for a long time. It was outdated and harmful when I went 20 years ago, and it’s only gotten more useless since. Unless you’re going into medicine or education (teaching) or something that absolutely requires a degree, I would advise anyone to look elsewhere. This idea that a university degree is anything other than a ticket to indebtedness and frustration is a lesson I had to learn the hard way.

            Sorry to hear you had to learn the same lesson. I blame your parents. At least my father tried to warn me away from university and urged me to go to trade school instead. Of course, I fancied myself as a future member of the “educated class” and I didn’t listen. We all think we’re philosopher kings when we’re young. So I have only myself to blame. You may well have a legitimate beef with your parents. But don’t go comparing this to the thirties. Neither you nor I could survive for a week if we had to live like they did during the 1930s, and we both know it.

          • What I find astounding is that these kids have convinced themselves that now is “just like the 30s”. How historically ignorant does a person have to be to reach for a ridiculous analogy like that. Just like the 30s??? Did they even bother to read about the Great Depression?

          • Its true what you are saying regarding the Depression 2.0. But there is not need to be pissed at some one who is positive… Judging from your comment I can tell that you are not like the rest of the sheeple. So try to take advantage of the situation… many people made money out of the recession.. yeah I know they are the House of Morgans, the Rothschilds… and guys like such… but what they have in common is the fact that they know how an economy works and what things are good to invest on… I suspect you are the same guy saying ” How are we going to pay anything back if we make below poverty level?” well let me tell you… that debt could be paid with a minimum wage if the Banking System goes bankrupt and print money to oblivion… which is very likely to happen… I think USA and very likely Canada will hit into hyperinflation in the next 10 years… when that happens you will pay ur debt with pennies at the dollar (or whats left of it)… life is all about information… and let me tell you.. i used to leave in Ontario Works getting a shitty paycheck of $1300 for 3 adults.. and now that I am almost independent and working hard like a dog.. i am pretty sure that i will be better well off than many people in Canada… if u really want to know how to be prepared for the real financial crisis that is coming.. i just have two words. ” wealth cycles”… good luck

          • That’s where my meagre savings are. Gold & silver. The suckers are the ones who mortgaged their future to purchase suburban McMansions. Theyr’e going to get slaughtered. The same parents who told them to “go to university” also told them “renting is just throwing money away”. So they borrowed money to get a useless degree, then borrowed again to buy a house in the midst of a bubble. Their parents told them they could, and should, have it all right now. And the poor bastards believed them. Khrist, if I keep going, even I’m going to start feeling sorry for them. :)

          • You kids swear at anyone who dares to challenge you. I can’t imagine why you aren’t having any luck in the job market. Couldn’t be your attitude could it? The world owes you nothing. Calling your peers “apathetic pieces of shit” just because they aren’t as depressed and distraught as you demonstrates a very childish mindset. Don’t be angry. Just be cranky.

      • Great points, Notice how some don’t even know about the depression. todays kids have forgotten their history. Of course some think an MBA will still get you a cabin on the lake (clueless) (instantly by the way, not only are they spoiled they want instant satisfaction) Today an MBA is like having a Masters in Lace Making….Trapped in a job, guess they never heard of ‘choice’.
        The problem is these demanding, angry, disillusioned people are being allowed into university, instead of therapy.

        • being part of this generation I believe we have not been adequately prepared to handle life’s challenges because we are
          the victims of expectations. students feel that a persons value is now based on
          numbers and percentages and if you don’t meet that expectation, your life doesn’t
          hold value. The defination of “success” has a different meaning for
          this generation, the definition is more complicated, and unrealistic. yet we were brought into this world not taught how to SURVIVE but to live a luxurious life. whatever that means for different people. I think for this generation the true meaning of survival isn’t enough. survival for us means luxury. And as sad as that is I can’t so that is entirely my fault because that’s how I was raised. Lived experience is much more important then being a bookworm, it teaches you resilience and that is something many of us lack. Sure I can say that i wont prostrate and bend to the social pressures but the point is the world is changing, depending on where you live having a masters degree only makes you 30 k a year and sure for many of us that’s plenty but what about those who are thinking about having a family and want the best for our children. But I agree it is not worth getting sick mentally or physically, once upon a time I was, i became very sick and then i got better because my perspective changed. University and a masters degree does not define happiness or success, it is unrealistic and definitely not worth being sick over.

  3. I’m surprised externalised violence isn’t mentioned as a negative coping mechanism that some desperate students turn to as an outlet. I’m of the opinion that James Holmes, Batman shooter, was suffering from severe mental illness, probably caused by mounting social, economic, and academic pressures. We definitely need to take a long and hard look at the environment we’re creating for our future generations (far beyond simply the green one).

    • From all indications, (James Holmes’ psychiatrist called police to warn them of his plans) James Holmes suffered a psychotic episode and may infact have schizophrenia. He appeared to believe he was “part” of the Batman movie. As psychosis is caused by the over-production of certain neurotransmitters in the brain, one really could not blame outside societal pressures for his severe mental illness.

      • “As psychosis is caused by the over-production of certain neurotransmitters in the brain”

        Really, which “certain neurotransmitters”? I love pharmacratic BS. This is the very reason that the kids aren’t alright. They have people like you treating them like they’re robots, rather than spirits.

  4. I am glad that these are issues that are being talked about, but I was disappointed with the use of certain standbys. Identifying social media and technology as potentially one of the problems? People didn’t worry about marks in the 70′s? It’s as important to recognize the context of 2012—that includes all of it, not just that there is less stigma (although there is still heaps) around mental health.

    Also, the on campus place that I sought help at was definitely not equipped to handle actual mental health issues. They were definitely geared towards getting students in and out, and not towards people with actual mental illness.

    • Good points, being equipped to handle actual mental health issues should be the top priority of universities.

      • BS. University top priority is to provide an education. If you have mental health issues, see your doctor, psychologist or psychiatrist from your Mental Health Association. Universities are not health care facilities.

  5. I’m a final year university student at York. All my good friends have been through university. More than half of them dealt with depression or anxiety during their time at school. I feel a large part of it is parental support and expectations. Many friends who went through this anxiety has external expectations of them (expectations that they don’t set for themselves) that seemed quite unrealistic. Obviously not all cases are like this, however, I would imagine it does contribute to a large percentage of the stats listed.

  6. No mention of the “self-esteem generation” issue. It’s not too surprising when kids who got trophies their whole lives for just showing up, and have been told since the day they were born how “special” they are, find it tough to cope in the “real” world.

    • You didn’t read the article — it’s in there.

      • I didn’t get to that part. I couldn’t stop laughing when I read Ryerson University.

    • While you may be right in some cases, that is not true for the majority of university students. I for example, have never been given a trophy, ribbon, or other reward for just showing up – I failed at nearly every athletic competition in school and no one ever tried to pretend I had achieved anything. In school I had to work very hard for good grades and I was never praised unless I actually did a good job on something. And yet I experience a great deal of stress at university, so I guess I cannot be explained away as a “member of the self-esteem generation”. In a nutshell, here is my life and I dare you to claim it is not legitimately stressful and anxiety provoking.

      I’m 22 years old and I am in my last year of university – late, I know, but I took an extra year of high school to ensure I was ready. I live close enough to the university that I am able to commute from home. I have a shit car that could die at any time and I don’t have the money to buy a replacement without taking a loan. Paying for the gas and insurance is tough, so I worry about what I will do when I move out and I need to pay room and board, nevermind further education. No one in my immediate family has attended university or college except a couple of night school classes years ago, so they don’t understand the difficulty or the time commitment. They often comment that I don’t know anything about real work and that I ought to do more for them because they’ve been at work all day…except I’ve been in classes, at the library, and/or studying all day and my work never ends – it comes home with me!

      In order to keep the scholarship I earned upon entering first year I need to keep a minimum of an A- average over each term and I hope to attend law school, so I need even better marks than that. On top of this, I need to volunteer in order to prepare for applying to law school and also for obtaining work for a year off. I am currently employed and while the work isn’t too bad this term, it will get heavy during the winter term, but I really need to be able to list it on my resume, so I cannot quit (and the money is helpful as well). As a result, I barely get to have any social life due to time constraints and even if I did have more free time, it wouldn’t help because I don’t consume alcohol and that is the main form of socialization at my university. So needless to say, I don’t have many friends, which is tough because I don’t have many people to rely on/go to for help when needed. I need to worry about taking the LSAT or the GRE because I won’t get a decent job in this market without further education, much less a fulfilling one. Oh, and my athletic pursuits have been forcibly ended by an injury which causes me daily pain despite expensive physiotherapy…

      Yeah…I’m entitled and I shouldn’t feel any stress about my life whatsoever *eye roll*

      • You are still living at home and already complaining about expenses? Kid, you have no idea. Otherwise, your story sounds pretty much like my own 20 years ago. Working through school. Injured in a physical job at age 19 (neck injury) which effectively prevented any enjoyment of sports thereafter (and still hurts like a bastard sometimes). But I got through it and so will you. Do you really think we had it any easier 20 years ago? Perhaps your parents did, but even that is no sure thing. If they graduated into the recession of the early 80s or early 90s, they had an even worse job market than you.

        • Hey, Cranky, how many internationals were you competing with for jobs 20 years ago? Had the Immigration Floodgates been opened at that point?

      • My waaaagggh story. I was the first in my family to attend university, I didn’t have a car, so had to take the bus, I had to study all the time and do chores on the farm before and after classes. I had to take a part-time job to support myself and attend university too because I lost my scholarship. I had no friends because I am a recovering alcoholic and every around here just drinks. No one understands the pressure I am under….waaagh waaagh waaaagh.

        To re-write your story.
        People wake up, life can be tough. Even though I suffer chronic pain, do volunteer work (a requirement) and hold down a job, I still manage to maintain an A- GPA and plan to get into law school. It’s not easy being a starving student with no social life but by having a plan and goal, working towards it steadily. I might even have to take a year off and work F/T but I will succeed. Even though it seems impossible I even manage my time to include yogi and tai-chi to help me deal with the physical and mental stress of living. As my grandpa used to say, “When life deals you lemons, make some lemonaid” Working on the solutions, not wallowing in the problems…

    • You got that right. All that pampering and ego-boosting created a generation of narcissists who’ve never seen disappointment and never acknowledged failure, let alone overcome it.

  7. Great article, I can certainly understand the pressures that youth face today. I do believe there are greater expectations placed on youth and the stress of a rapidly increasing technological world is overwhelming. Eric Windeler is a man who lost his son to suicide and who is making a difference by bringing to the publics attention the need to take notice of what is happening and take resonsibility to address and act to help these youth. Keep up the great work!

  8. As a young adult reading this article is heart breaking. I am waiting to attend post secondary education. All I know is life can be hard, but is where I am so thankful to know Jesus. The peace that comes from knowing him is like no other. The hope, the joy. Just to know when things get hard I don’t stand alone. That he carries me through the craziest times. Being a christian doesn’t mean life is going to be perfect. That you won’t face obstacles or challeneges. But what it does mean is when they come that I know that I serve an amazing God who can I trust to bring me through by his strength alone. A God who loves me more that I can ever imagine. Who longs to be in relationship with me. That is pretty cool.

    • I totally agree with you future student… I am a current undergrad student as well and it is absolutely true that school brings a lot of pressure and stress, but I do find hope in Jesus who loves me beyond imagination. At the same time, it is very sad to realize how messed up our world has gone. My heart breaks for those students who are trying hard and end up losing themselves, for those still unemployed… my prayer is that they will find hope in someone bigger than university education

    • Being a Buddhist, not a big fan of divine intervention, regardless your ‘knowledge’ that life can be difficult and you will make it through is inspiring. Acceptance is a wonderful tool.

    • It is pretty cool. Do you know that they used to teach people about Jesus in public school? In British Columbia they did. Until 1989 they read the Lord’s Prayer and a Scripture lesson every day. That’s what has happened—they’ve STOLEN our INHERITANCE: THE NEW AND OLD TESTAMENTS OF GOD! And now that people are “mentally ill” (spiritually depraved) due to lack of administration of the Gospel Medicine, the Fatcats and Shitheads who deprived the children of the gospel in the first place are going to prattle on about how weak these kids are.

      The older university-educated losers have used this younger generation for a big experiment—without any consent at all. There needs to be an accounting. They need to be held to account for having destroyed public education. Why is there all of this talk about the kids? Why not talk about the institutions that produced these kids? Oh, right, they’re all run by University degree holders, and remember, the University educated never critique themselves—they’re the new Pharisees and Saducees, you know.

  9. why is anyone surprised ?

    You have parents spoiling they’re kids the moment they “arrive”.

    I have witnessed parents negotiating the length of a “time out”.
    Parents who negotiate, everything.
    When did punishment become a time to moderate ?
    Seeing a parent negotiate with a 4 year old is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever seen !

    I see children everywhere I go, with absolutely no respect for anyone or anything.
    And with a complete lack of understanding that there are consequences for actions.

    What the hell has happened ? Who’s in charge ? No one anymore.

    Making kids believe and feel that everything becomes a negotiation. That the world is so accommodating to their every whim, that everything is handed to them with little to no effort, that all situations are negotiable and that parents are equals and no longer an authority.

    Without hierarchy, there is anarchy.

    When did our society lose the ability to raise children to be strong and aggressive ?

    Thank you PARENTS, for raising a bunch of self centered narcissists, who walk around with a sense of entitlement, who appreciate nothing, and want to kill them selves because, surprise surprise, life isn’t easy.

    ridiculous !

    And by the way, the pharmaceutical companies would like to thank you all for these weak individuals.

    Antidepressants is the # 1 seller !

    • Whoever this is, you need to talk to a psychiatrist.

      • Odd. Holly Stick never mentioned a little sister.

      • Unsolicited medical advice is probably worth less than what the recipient pays.

    • I think you’re missing the point of this article, and I also think you’re wrong. The majority of us do not think that we are “entitled” to anything. If you had read this article more carefully and without your evident preconceived notions about the youth of today, you’d note that students work harder than before because we have realized that life is not handed to you on a plate. Most students believe that they must be at the top of their class to succeed. Nowhere was it said that students were unwilling to work, or believe that the things we want in life, like career success, are to be handed to us on a platter. Facts are facts – we are going into a poor economy with extreme debt (due to the level of education necessary to even land a job, which is not our doing) and the gravity of our situation is drilled into us every day. We don’t expect to have a cushy job just because we want it. We expect to be able to survive and support ourselves in adulthood. To me, that’s not an unrealistic expectation of life. And the fact that we may not be able to is a depressing thought.

      Mental health is not a joke. Suicide is not something to be treated lightly. It’s not a plea for attention, or students being spoiled brats and believing that they are entitled to their success. It is a legitimate problem. It is an illness, it is real, and it should be treated with respect, understanding, and quick action to mend the problem. People with mental health issues are not “weak” at all.

      • I work with unemployed and I will disagree. I find the 35 and under crowd have unrealistic expectations. I regularly hear: we should have this, companies should do this, I deserve blah blah blah. All comments about how the world should run the way they want it.
        There are those that complain and make excuses for failure: eduction costs, bad economy, no job stability and then there are those that look for reasons to succeed.
        You don’t need to go into extreme debt to land a decent job. That is your preconceived idea. For a mere $7000 I invested in myself I went from minimum wage jobs to $26.00 hour Considering the average wage in BC is $14./hr I did quite alright. I looked for success, not excuses to fail. How did I get a good job during a bad economy? The complainers will say, you were lucky. The realists will say, you planned well and worked on a goal.

        “We expect to be able to survive and support ourselves in adulthood. To
        me, that’s not an unrealistic expectation of life. And the fact that we
        may not be able to is a depressing thought.” — We expect…. rather then ‘expect’ what is your plan to succeed in life and support yourself?

        • Fair enough. I realize, what with these people being my peers for the most part, that a lot of us do feel entitled and that angers me as much as anything. None of us ‘deserve’ anything, and we have to work and plan. These are all fair points and I agree with you there. My comment was really only intended to counter the original poster’s generalizations of this generation, and at the basis of it, disregard for the point of this article – the extremely troubling mental health issues present amongst university students. Suicide amongst students, whatever your opinion of this generation’s expectations or university pressures, is an issue. It needs attention.

          My notion that you have to go into extreme debt to find a job is based solely on my experiences. Perhaps I shouldn’t have generalized – considering that’s what made me so incensed about the original poster – but it is true that in my life, I am told every day that I will have to pay thousands and go into debt to do anything.

          Maybe my notions are skewed. Maybe the career path I want to follow is a hard one and, yes, it’s probably unrealistic. Maybe I haven’t planned it thoroughly enough. But I’ll make it work, or change it completely. My plan is to find a way – be it working minimum wage or settling for something else. Who knows? But I think that students need to be mentally healthy to plan accordingly and change their goals to suit the future. And that’s the whole point of this article.

  10. I finished my BA a few years ago. I too noticed that I had changed in terms of mental health. Most of my friends from HS did have the brains to make it out of HS, and the ones that did, didn’t attend post secondary. Sure I made new friends at school, but interacting with the friends I had had for over 10-15 years became difficult. I eventually sought some help, but it didn’t do anything. By the time I had graduated, I was depressed every day, felt lonely in a room of 200 people, and couldn’t sleep more than 2-3 hours a night. To add to all of this, I couldn’t find a full time job, so I had to stick with the one I had during uni. I have been there for a total of 7 years now, still make just over min wage, and get my groceries at the Food Bank. Needless to say, this doesn’t help matters, so I decided to go back for a more applicable degree (computer science). I ran out of money after the first semester, and since I still owe from my previous degree and cant afford to add to it, I had to drop out. In my spare time I taught myself Java, HTML, CSS, Dreamweaver, and a few other languages. I still can’t get a non-min wage job, and can’t seem to find full time employment in anything.
    Overall, I am left feeling pretty hopeless, useless, and depressed. I still can’t sleep at night, and I don’t always know if I’m going make enough to pay rent this month. I can understand why a whole generation might feel this way. I am 29 years old, and to be honest, I don’t think I have a future. I can’t see my self having a family (how could I ever afford that?), I can’t see myself ever owning a vehicle, and I certainly can’t see my self being happy in any foreseeable future. Wish it weren’t so, but it is. People at my work have even commented that they have never seen me smile, and the only reply i can think of is “what is there to smile about? I hate my job, I am in a debt that I can’t repay, I don’t sleep at night, I can barely afford to feed myself, and because I have no money, I have no social life.”

    • I really feel that you need a life changing experience. Let me tell you what I did. I did my first year of Mechanical Engineering in UWO. During the first summer break my family came through a really bad financial crisis. I decided to drop out and find a job. I moved to Fort Mcmurray, AB. I know it sounds extreme… but let me tell you… there are extreme opportunities up here. Many people from the east are moving up here. The first year is the toughest because once you find a regular job… you will try to get days off… there is too much work here… there is a hug labour shortage and they pay really well depending on your field…. I know tons of University students doing technical programs and let me tell you… they will have a better future than many University graduates… The Job Marker is rapidly changing and you need to get used to it otherwise you are going to be the victim.. I hope you turn positive about your future… to give you some inside… if you were to move to Alberta… move to Grande Prairie… I know guys with the age of 19 that make $125k/year… yes I said per year… they are mostly oil diggers… but they make a nice living doing it… do your own research.. save some money or ask a freaking loan from a family member or something and move to the west… you wont regret it… I been here only a year and I will start working for Suncor making $29/hr as a student worker… Fort Mc is really expensive to live in… so I suggest you to look at the other cities like Edmonton, Calgary or Grande Prairie first.. Good luck

      • what field are you in , how did you get your foot in the door? I just got my H2S and CSTS this week I want to move from Sask to northern Alberta.

        • I dont know what you exactly want to do! I have heard there are plenty of jobs down in Sask. I am a power engineer (petroleum technician). theres a huge demand for it in here… but it all depends on what you want to do. My job is really Oil dependent…( if you want to make good money). i can always work in cities like Toronto cuz this program gives me a background in high pressure boilers and steam which is widely used in residential place and cities for its cheap way of making energy. You need to find what you want to do first… dont do what people tell you…get some ground on reading and researching job market trends and play with the cards that life have dealt you… btw… regarding how i got my foot on the door, i simply applied for P.E program and right now i am heading for my work term…

    • Don’t let the discouragement seep into your bones. I didnt start making decent money until my late thirties. Grind it out and don’t give up. And if you are in a big expensive city, start looking for work in smaller communities. Don’t do what the herd does, or wants to do. Do the opposite.

    • Jason, I agree with Johan. You need a “life-changing experience”. I work as a psychiatric nurse and from your description of your life….you are not sleeping; you take no pleasure in your life, etc…..I would say you are very depressed. I am guessing you live in an area of the country that is economically depressed as well. Likely you can’t imagine getting up the energy to move to another province BUT you need to do exactly that. Come to Alberta. Get a better job. Then seek out counselling to help you through your depression. You will be so glad that you did this. You don’t have to stay away from your home province forwever, only long enough to turn things around.

    • May you find grace in the Lord. He cares! He wants to carry your burdens. He loves you more than you can ever know. He is the answer to every question.

    • Dear Jason—I read your message and felt quite disheartened at your situation. I can tell you there is hope, you just have to put yourself out there. I went back to school at age 29. I left my full time paying job of $18.00 an hour at a call centre bank to go back to school and pursue an art degree. If your hourly wage is your concern try to get a job at a call centre – be willing to relocate. Telus is always hiring countrywide ( Montreal, Vancouver). They pay more than minimum wage ( $18.00). Some of these call centres pay matching RRSP and I was able to save alot, they also give yearl bonuses, which I saved. Seek out these opportunities and don’t stick with your minimum wage job. You deserve better. As for starting a family…human beings from the beginning of time never needed great wealth to start a family . It was always too people getting together.Hopefully you will meet someone with the same striving attitude and you too will make a great life.

  11. This is an abandoned generation. Education, which should have been free, costs them a fortune. Students face life long servitude just paying rent on education. Then there is employment or rather unemployment. Society as a whole does not care what happens to these children later on in life. Are there reasonable job opportunities? Do these jobs provide enough remuneration to pay for loans and life? Is there reasonable stability of work once employed? Will the employer avoid stealing their pension and benefit funds? The answer to all these relevant questions is a resounding no. With people like Harper at the helm, things will get a lot worse. Canadians should thank Tommy Douglas for his legacy of universal medical care in Canada. Or things would have been as ugly as they are in USA.

    • Or maybe they are just spoiled and soft and never had to face real challenges before.

      • Spoken like a true, entitled boomer. How much did YOUR education cost? What was the job market like when YOU got out into the ‘real world’?

        • Look, pal, it’s completely natural for the boomerkids to compete against millions of international degree holders, even tho the boomers never had to! It’s evolution, baby! Guess what boomers love more, their children or plastic crap from China!

          • Many boomers have binged on credit, and have seen their retirement savings get hammered. Soon they’ll watch their houses plunge in value. Boomers only think they’ve got it made. They don’t. They never did. The financial system they designed, and seemed to serve them well for so long, was nothing more than a ponzi scheme. Yet they still believe in it. They still believe their mutual funds will recover, and their houses will continue to rise in value. The boomers are about to get their medicine, don’t worry. Can’t say I feel sorry for them either. They’ve got it coming.

          • Giving the boomers credit for the Venetian-style ponzi scheme that is international finance is giving them far too much credit. Again, I see a trend to blaming the victims here—the whole financial mess wasn’t created by “boomers.” In most regions, you’re not even allowed to draft a tradable security, as far as I know, without a law degree—so all of these funny securities that have caused such problems for people, they’re not things “boomers” created—they’re things that University Educated Lawyers created.

            And they’ve gotten away with it, too. Their propaganda system is extremely effective. If boomers think they’ve got it made, it’s because University people using University research about how to manipulate people (psychology) have manipulated them into thinking such.

            Do I feel sorry for them? Who’s more foolish, as Obi-Wan says, the fool or the fool who follows him? So, I don’t know if I feel sorry for them—but I do feel that it is a whitewash to place all of the culpability for the world’s current mess at the feet of the boomers. They were public-education victims, too, and remember, they had it beaten into them, physically, that their University-teacher-guardians had their best interests at heart. Do they want to face up to the reality that they were beaten for no other purpose than to continue a sadistic, child-abusing cult? I doubt it. They’d rather think they’re “fiscally irresponsible.”

        • I’m not a boomer. I’m in my early 40s (too young to be a boomer). I graduated into a weak – albeit slowly improving – job market, in 1997, after years of grinding recession, and right in the middle of the biggest austerity Canada has ever seen. If you think today’s piddling government cut-backs are significant, you haven’t seen anything like the cuts in the mid-1990s. I worked my way through school (six years to get a four year degree through part time studies), and realized when I graduated that my degree was worthless to any potential employer. Sound familiar? Same boat as you by the sounds of it. From 1997 to 2002 (that’s 5 years), I juggled several part time jobs, working eleven hour days. Which still wasn’t enough to pay down my debt. In fact, my debt got larger.

          Luckily I had a lot of experience in agriculture and agribusiness, and eventually, in 2002, I got some decent employment. For the first time. In my early 30s. Fast-forward one decade – Just this summer, I celebrated being debt free. No house. Old car. Few real assets. Some RRSP savings. But debt free. For the first time in over 2 decades. And you know what? I’m thankful. I look around and see so many people who appear well off, but in fact are swimming in debt, financially stressed out, and one missed paycheque away from insolvency, and I feel nothing but relief. Hell, I work with idiots like that. They make the same income as me, doing the same job as me, but they’re living large, going south for vacation every winter, and rolling the cost of their resort vacations and new cars into their HELOCs when their mortgages are renewed. And they think this is normal. They think they’re smart for buying a house at the right time. Just like the American middle class felt circa 2006. Just like the boomers who feel smart for being born at the right time. Trust me, they have no clue what’s coming.

          Don’t be distracted by all the toys and goodies people have. Chances are, they bought them on credit. When the housing bubble pops (and it’s showing signs of doing that right now) their net worth will be less than yours. For now, embrace frugality. Forget about the iPhone5, and be glad you learned to live with less. Your parents told you that “you can have anything you want if only you work for it.” They were wrong. Don’t be bitter. They lied out of naivete, not out of malice. Go ahead an get angry with me if you like, but I’m not going to lie to you. I’m not a self-entitled boomer who just happened to be born in the right decade. I faced, and continue to face, the same economy, in the same country as you. I’ve got no sugar-coating to offer you. Things are tough. And they will get tougher. And lashing out in anger at those who are willing to tell you as much won’t get you anywhere. Nor will delusions about thing being as bad as they were in the thirties.

    • Abandoned generation. How about the meGeneration. Free education so we can have more people taking seats that have no clue what they are doing. Too many seats are already taken by ‘students’ just killing time, unresponsible for their own decisiosn. To answer you questions Yes, yes, yes, yes….. I think one line shows a clear perspective… these children. Sorry at university level you are not a child, you don’t need a nanny and mommy putting stars on your book reports. You need to grow up and hold yourself accountable.

      • The Me Generation? Are you serious? What a selfish, myopic stance to take. And, assuming you’re a boomer … what an incredible degree of projection. The Me Generation was the 1980s generation. It was Reagonomics, Thatcherism, the rise of free market fundamentalist neoliberalism, the beginning of the dismantlement of everything our grandparents bequeathed us with. And now in typical fashion, you blame the victims. Up yours.

  12. Going to university helped my mental health improve. This is not because of their mental health services but because I was in a program that I enjoyed (social work) and with friends who were great supports. I gave up on accessing university supports very early on and did what I always did, go with the flow (which after battling depression and other various extreme emotions since 13 years old was programmed in me to do). I fought on my own and I shouldn’t of had to and sometimes people can’t, at least not at first.

    This article explains exactly why I am now a part of a mental health research group based out of Ryerson which is looking how students with mental health issues are being treated and what are the barriers they are facing within the school.

  13. To be honest I think that part of the problem is that many of the people in today’s universities shouldn’t be there. Many of these people do not enjoy what they are learning which is what is making them depressed (especially when they are going in debt). They are pushed by parent to attend university and as a result end up taking a useless degree. Many people should be considering trades or college degree programs which will actually land them jobs. Another source of stress is the realization near the end of the degree that nothing you have done will guarantee you a good job. You must then go look for an entry level job requiring 2 years experience.

  14. This article is a good one, but is even better when read against another article from the same hard copy issue: “How Children Succeed,” by Brian Bethune.

    The reality that needs to be brought out more clearly is the way the human brain and central nervous actually work, as opposed to the way we’re being told they work. We’re using a poor model for brain function, so it’s hard to identify and fix the problems so many people are experiencing today.

    I’ve worked in the mental health field and have great respect for all initiatives that seek to reduce the stigma of mental illness (including this article). But we’re going to be stalled in this place of many questions and few answers until we begin to ask more cogent questions about the development of the human brain from infancy till adulthood. Until we get a better model, our children and young adults will continue to suffer.

    I returned to Queen’s University at age 49 to pursue graduate work. (It’s a different world than it was in the late 1970′s and early 1980′s.) But I’ve got more out of my courses the second time around because over the years I’ve been forced to rely less on my cognitive skills and much more on the “character skills” that Brian Bethune describes in his article — skills such as resilience, being able to admit mistakes, patience, honesty, and humbleness. (Being a parent will do this to you!)

    Character skills draw on different parts of the brain than purely cognitive skills do. But the connection between the two seems to be symbiotic. Character skills enhance cognitive skills, and vice versa. The brain is hardwired.this way, so instead of fighting this reality with flaky new pedagogical theories, we should get on with the task of making education less compartmentalized and more holistic. This may reduce stress levels for our young people.

  15. It’s a straight-up spiritual crisis. (Not enough God in their lives.)

    • Brainwashing is not an effective solution.

    • Agreed. But that is not their fault. Our Public Protestant Education system has been gutted by the same University nitwits who are now prating on about “mental illness.” Can you imagine a sadist breaking someone’s legs and then waxing philosophical about why said person cannot walk on his own? That’s what they’ve done to a whole generation of kids.

  16. A flaw in this report is the failure to point out that many career choices being pursued by many students are simply unrealistic.

    Miranda, for example, who admittedly has tended toward depression in her early life, wants a career in “communications”. This is an extremely popular and difficult career area offering few well-paid, stable employment paths. With luck she might end up making a passable living in public relations, or writing ads or commercials. Is THAT what she wants to do with her life?

    We can remedy a great proportion of the distress many students face, by giving them sensible career guidance and realistic odds on their “dream” choices leading to satisfaction.

    So many young people have expectations completely out of line with reality, including careers in ‘journalism’ – which is less and less a general occupational field offering stability and decent income.

    Been there. Scraped through. Got the tee shirt. Making a career in communications and journalism, is much like nailing mercury to the floor. The field is unstable and constantly changing, kids.

    Do your homework – think about whether your “dream job” might end up yielding your expected standard of living – then finally start paying attention to your mentors, advisors and counsellors. Maybe even your parents – before you start cherry-picking your favourite college and university courses..

    It’s still true: “If you want an education, go to university. If you want a job – go to college.”

    • I agree with this, but it needs to start with high schools too. I was in HS in the early 2000s. I was required to take a Career Studies class, and had an involved guidance counsellor, but the message was still universityuniversityuniversity, especially since I did fairly well in my classes. My parents and teachers all had the idea that I could take what I wanted in uni, and “having the degree” would be all I needed. A generation ago that was true, not so much today. I remember considering college after HS, but because of my high marks, and b/c both my parents are uni educated, it felt like what I was “supposed” to do. So I got my damned BA and it HAS gotten me a job- one job, that I can’t seem to leave for the life of me b/c no one else wants someone with a BA. My job is a bit off the beaten path, so it’s hard for me to parlay it into administrative or other work, meaning it’s basically this or flip burgers until I finally finish the college program I realized I should have just taken in the first place.
      Also: universities need to focus more on career training now! The piece of paper doesn’t mean crap if you have no idea how to behave in a “real” interview, which was a problem for me for a long time and still is to an extent. Turns out whatever job-finding skills I had from my student days were out the window upon grad, as office jobs don’t work like restaurants or retail.

  17. I had to drop out of school because student loans were not lending me enough, I don’t understand why they cap the amount that they lend, when you have to pay it back in the end anyways. I am hoping on becoming a pipeline labourer or something like that. 33 credits of university wasted. I got tired of borrowing money and just getting by, so here I am not attending school for the first time in a long time, and just taking certifications, hoping to start making some good money instead of taking classes. I did not like some of the classes that I needed to take ; just to get to a career which I may not like.

  18. The realities of untethered capitalism burying the dream of social democracy. Social democratic societies try to make a good life for everyone, all of us working together to make a decent society. Capitalism is little more than feudalism with a modern banking system to allow even greater exploitation of the worker-serfs. Things are going to continue getting worse and worse until people start to realise what a cancer capitalism is, and do whatever needs to be done to get rid of it. Starting line – Democratic revolution, now or never – http://www.rudemacedon.ca/vgi/backgrounders/revolution.html

    • Oh ya, that Communism you espouse has worked out sooo well in other places, hasn’t it?

  19. The story quotes a study from the U of A. Here in Edmonton we have the ongoing story of a teacher at Ross Shepard who gave a student a zero, and the principal has tried to fire him over it. This is a classic example of what is happening. Students are pampered by the public school system. They are not allowed to fail, and worse, they are told how good they are. When they hit the real world, and discover it was all a lie, depression sets in.

  20. Because they did not go out and play as much as kids should, all their time was spent preparing to be successful adults etc…

  21. I am struck by the lack of compassion in many of the comments here. For anyone, especially a young person to feel they have no choice but to take their own life is nothing short of a complete tragedy. For such high levels of depression and anxiety to be so prevelent in our universities is nearly as bad. What kind of pressure cookers are we creating at our univesities, fuelled in large part by tax dollars? And are the gains really worth all the pain and suffering?

    • Is it pressure? Or were they just not prepared for life’s challenges? At very least, it would appear that the self-esteem movement has been a miserable failure. Warning kids that they’re going to fail and screw up sometimes might be a better strategy than building up thei fragile egos with a steady stream of gold stars.

      • You really are an asshole.

        • They weren’t kidding when they called you the “broken generation”. You sound almost like you’ve got PTSD or something. Learn to handle some criticism. Don’t be angry. Just be cranky.

          • He probably does. Rather than foist all of the blame on the individuals who suffer due to public education, why not put the blame on the slave-drivers who draft children into public education, that is, public slavery?

            At this point you’re right, he must help himself, but I am not a big fan of nullifying traumatic memories—I think the appropriate way to deal with trauma, especially when the abusers are still actively abusing people, is to have some sort of restorative justice process.

            But as I have said, the University folk are psychotics who lack insight into their condition, so getting them to admit that their manners and methods cause neurological damage would be like pulling teeth. They are truly so delusional that they believe imprisoning children and forcing them to undergo medical experiments is “helping” the children.

  22. It really comes down to poor parenting, an poor development as an adult. I went to post secondary and I was overwhelmed. That is life everyone will be overwhelmed, we have to adapt. I got over it within a month. These young adults do not have the emotional intelligence to survive post secondary. Its a combination of permissive parenting and the lack of ownership on their own behest most of these young adults have for the most part been spoiled most of their child hood.

    • being perpetually overwhelmed is what life is—in a state of nature, or a broken society. If people are overwhelmed in large numbers in a modern socialist state like Canada, it is because the socialism is being run in a one-sided way. And we only need to look to University Administrator wages to figure out who’s getting the gravy out of abusing our children. That’s the other thing—kids are interned with University-educated people from Grade 1 thru Grade 12. Clearly that process is abusive, and the effects of that abuse are anxiety and depression.

  23. Why you candy ass MoFo’s !! These “sensitive students” have way too much time on their hands and think too much !! They need good physical and mental structure in their lives and that’s what’s missing in todays’s generations. The instant technology at their disposal doesn’t help either. Makes them lazy and stupid !! Is this what they mean when they say “progress” and “justifiction for higher education?” WTF!?

  24. Any of these “depressed” students want to switch with anyone from a third world country or someone who went through the REAL “Depression” in the 30′s or the Holocaust or any of the first two World Wars or Vietnam?? This is a country of opportunities!! Get real !!

  25. Here’s why I think I’m going to be okay, despite what I seem to be up against as a 23 year old new grad with an Honours degree in Theatre Studies. We had a record three deaths in the family in 2010, two of which occurred at the end of 1st semester, 3rd year, right about when all of my due dates for final assignments, including the opening night of the first production I ever directed, were fast approaching. I’d never even been to a funeral before the first death that year (which occurred the day after I returned home from finishing my 2nd year). After all was said and done, and the New Year was rung in, I was at my absolute worst. I would decide at the sound of my alarm whether I felt like getting out of bed, let alone whether I was going to attend any classes, that day. Granted, most days I was perfectly functional and I barely even let on that anything was the matter. But every so often, something of a dark cloud would creep over me and I would feel pretty darn hopeless. In the winter, I got some kind of a flu (or, I was convinced I had some sort of flu) and found myself sitting in the Campus Clinic, waiting for my walk-in appointment. There was a poster on the wall pointing to some website you could go to to figure out whether you should seek professional attention or psychiatry or something for a mood or stress or whatever disorder. I scribbled down the URL and looked it up when I got home. There were all of these questions about substance abuse and thoughts of suicide that I got really concerned; I wasn’t in denial, I just wasn’t THAT KIND of sad. That’s when I realized that there are people who turn to harmful behaviours in order to help them cope with what they are feeling and that I had the choice not to be one of those people. That’s right, the CHOICE. I felt sorry for the people who think that they have nowhere else to turn, and in reading this article, I was disappointed to find that there really didn’t seem to be any acknowledgement of this, no suggestions on how to inform young adults of their options. Some people know about counselling (which is what I thought I needed), but stigma or not, they’re not always able to get it. The thing that got me through was realizing how many people were willing to help me though my worst time. When the 2nd death occurred, I was six days away from opening night and I had never had to miss any school in my entire life for a funeral. After my initial reaction to the news (the details of which are not necessary to this post), I sent an e-mail to the secretary of the Theatre Studies department and asked him for advice on how to proceed, since my father was already on his way to pick me up to take me home, three hours away, and then 10 hours in the opposite direction the next day en route to a funeral. The secretary of our department, a remarkable man, notified all of the professors in my department (unsure of which ones I had classes with presently) of what had happened. There was a flood of emails in response; past professors offering condolences, present professors offering deadline extensions. Something tells me that had I been in some science program, things would not have worked out this way. I was never asked to provide proof of death (how insulting that would have been!) or anything of the sort. These professors, these PEOPLE, treated me like a PERSON. Not just another number in a system of numbers being pumped in and out of the factory that is oftentimes the case with Universities. I know all of my professors on a first name basis and they know me and my classmates similarly. We shared our time, our passion and a number of drinks and/or meals together in the four years I was at the U of G. Compared to a lot of other theatre programs/schools out there, Guelph’s program is on the smaller, lesser known side of things and I wouldn’t have had it any other way. My Theatre degree may seem useless compared to that of someone in Engineering or Biotechnology or what have you, but there’s one thing I got with my B.A. that those B. Sc. grads likely have not; a genuine, HUMAN, experience in University. I learned about myself and what I need in order to be happy, in order to be successful, in theatre and in life. I learned that grades are only a number on a transcript, and like all numbers, contribute absolutely nothing to one’s self-worth. I also learned the importance of introspection, of working at my own pace and of making connections with the people around me. When people I met from other programs would find out I was a theatre student, they would always (and I mean ALWAYS) ask me what I intended to do with my degree, how I expected to make a living off of it, etc. I never expected my degree to pay the bills, I just wanted to learn more about something I was fascinated by. The rest, from there, is still up to me. And sure, it’s and uncharted and often scary place, this post-grad limbo many of us are in, but that’s all part of the adventure, isn’t it? If there was only one recipe for success, this world would be a pretty bland place in my honest opinion. I know i’m going to be fine because I’ve learned not to sweat it, not to worry so much about how I’m going to achieve what I’ve set out to achieve. I’m just going to live and do my best to keep living, that way I get to stick around to find out how this story ends.

  26. This article is disgusting. This generation did not break itself. It was broken. Outrageous student loan debt and a predatory economy that consigns us to unpaid (!!!) internships if we’re lucky, and the minimum wage precariat if we’re not (unless, as some here suggest, you go to Alberta and get your piece of the tar sands earth-rape) … these are the reasons we’re killing ourselves. Not because we’re weak, ‘mentally ill’, ‘unable to cope’. Why should we need to ‘cope’ with inhumane conditions created for us by the Greediest Generation, the baby boomers who took every entitlement they could get – entitlements they were provided by our grandparents, the Greatest Generation, who voted for higher taxes and fought hard in the union movement for socioeconomic justice, specifically to make a society worth living in? One that worked for everyone, not just the 1%? The issues we are dealing with are not our fault. We did not do this to ourselves. You – the boomers, the greedy capitalists who have made this mess, who offshored the jobs and gave themselves big raises and tax cuts for their trouble – YOU did this. And now your children are dying. We are killing themselves, for we see no future, because our parents ate our future and stuck us with the bill. Happy yet?

    • Angry Grad Student, welcome to the Global Village!

      You are a child abuse victim, like most of us. You were ritually abused by University educated people from the age of six onwards. Even if you were homeschooled, unless you had exceptionally wily parents, they were told that a condition of your homeschooling was the administration of a toxic substance, called curriculum. As we are now seeing, curriculum has serious “mental health” consequences. But let’s not use their propaganda terms. These are not “mental health” consequences—they are neurological consequences from the administration of curriculum under certain conditions.

      The end-goal of this abuse is to perpetuate the abusive system that enacts the abuse: the University. Only really sick people want to test others, in order to filter them up into a hierarchy of abusive oppressors, dig?

      The reason you never hear about this is that any student who talks in this way will be kicked out of University. Or, perhaps nowadays, dx/rx’d during K-7 and put on neurologically disabling drugs so that they never get to University. They have things called “non-academic misconduct policies” that are designed to deal with anyone who doesn’t “go along to get along.” In the context of ritual abuses like testing, that means taking the tests, not organizing the students to reject testing, which is as much as if a poison or drug.

      But don’t expect any accountability from these people—they’re abuse victims, too. Optimistically, this is all the last-gasp of a dying carcass. There’s clear evidence that the university-population is suffering from endemic “mental illness,” but because the university system is run by high-functioning psychotics (it’s another issue entirely how mentally ill one must be to believe in corporations, that is, incorporeal bodies) who “lack insight,” it will take some pushing to get the blame put where it should be: on the University system and its feeder-school K-12 system.

      But isn’t it easier to blame the kids and their weak backs?

      • Heh. Nice post. And all too true. The school system is a sick, cancerous body. However, your complaints about testing are a little silly. Otherwise, you seem to be onto something. At least you realize how badly you’ve been lied to. The old “go to university” lie has been pushed down the throats of yet another generation, and it’s sad.

        • I understand that my view of testing might appear extreme, but how is a test any different from an experiment? We don’t allow nontherapeutic experimentation on children, so the only possible justification for mass educational testing, that is, mass educational experimentation, is that all children are sick and in need of treatment.

          One of the big principles that came out of the Nazi mop-up during WWII was that medical experimentation without consent, especially on captive populations, was a war crime. So how is public education any different? I mean, really, how is it different—and I don’t think you can deal with that by suggesting that the view is “silly.”

          And as to why I went to University, I thought it was all garbage by the time I was six. I went so that I could study these creatures, these people who are, in my view, destroying the natural environment, physical, mental, spiritual, all so that they can continue to Lord it over everyone who can’t/won’t play such a sick dressup game.

          And just to be clear, I went to University with zero debt, left with zero debt, so this isn’t sour grapes about myself having been sold that particular bill of goods—I am thankful for the time I spent learning how these sick people operate.

  27. Can I just point out to the holier-than-thou over-the-hill posters here that if kids today are as whiny, entitled, and soft as you claim, this will be because your generation failed as parents. Really, if the choice is between a failure by the boomers to create productive, efficient, and healthy educational, social, and economic institutions and a failed generation of kids, then it seems like the boomers are stuck with the blame no matter what.

    An entire generation of kids do not simply up and decide that they’re going to be useless. If they were unprepared, it’s because no one prepared them. If they are soft, it’s because no one taught them how to cope with hardship. If they are entitled, it’s because no one taught them any better.

    You might argue, “It’s ‘em namby pamby, bleedin’ heart liberals huggin’ the damned kids too much. I raised MY kids right.” (Which, incidentally, is not much of an argument.) I hope that you’re wrong on this point. I hope that your kids had at least one loving, hugging parent. I also hope that your childhood wasn’t as grim as you’re making it out to be. If it were true, then you must’ve really walked 15 miles, uphill, in the snow, while it rained, and through wildcat infested woods just to go to school everyday–nevermind the trip back.

    If you are in your 40s now, then you would’ve turned 22 circa 1994–during a time of great economic boom. In 1994, the youth unemployment rate (ages 16-24) was 12.5% in the US, compared to 17.6% in 2011. There are simply less jobs now than there were during your time. Of course, of the 82.4% of youth who are employed, as you must know, many are working at jobs not commensurable to that expensive degree they have; currently, 36% of workers in the US are overqualified for their jobs. Furthermore, the job market is simply more competitive now, even though, again, there are less jobs to go around. This past March saw the US achieve a significant milestone: 30% of adults in the US had at least a bachelor’s; up from just slightly over 20% in 1993.

    Of course, it goes without saying that it costs more to go to school nowadays. The price of a four year degree at th University of Minnesota Twin Cities in 1994 (adjusted to 2011 dollars) cost $5293, while the same degree costs $13062 in 2011-2012. Oh, and lets not forget that the unpaid intern was a relatively rare phenomenon when you graduated nearly 20 years ago (good god, you’re old…). And this was during a time where credit was cheap, interest rates were manageable, and creditors were less shark-like.

    Man, did you guys ever have it easy. There were more jobs commensurable to your education, with less competition, and the corporate world had yet to figure out that ‘intern’ was a synonym for ‘free labour’. On top of which, it was cheaper to go to school, and the banks weren’t breathing down your necks about your loans.

    So, in conclusion, therefore, it is highly likely that the view from your high-horse is quite pleasant, as this would explain why you’re up there so often, despite the facts. However, such facts suggest that you should probably come down here a little more often, as the air must be quite thin up there. Though, there is probably some truth to the claim that, in general, your generation could’ve been better parents.

    • I’m not a boomer. I’m early 40s, too young to be a boomer. And yes, I blame them for spoiling the young ‘uns rotten. It is disgusting just how sheltered and babied their children are. No wonder early adulthood is such a shock to them.

  28. The problem is society. We are conditioned by our parents that University is the key to happiness and sustainability. We are starting to realize the repercussions of capitalism. Youth are depressed because they were born into a insane system of slavery.

    • Don’t blame your parents. Unless they are filthy rich, it’s Public School or Private School run by the University Educated. University Hack Hegemony is a clear and present danger to the human species. It’s not capitalism that is the “insane system of slavery.”

      It’s Compulsory Education, that is, Compulsory Administration of Curriculum. Do you believe in Original Sin, that people are born filthy and need a Baptism/Primary Education/University Degree to have the Filth wiped off? All of a sudden the “bad old days” of Church rule don’t seem so bad. The “education” consisted of one baptism and one Sunday a week.

      Modern Compulsory Education is five days a week, plus homework—it is little more than a conditioning apparatus with two tracks. The PhD track, where you come out the top as Lord of the Manor, and the Other Track, where you come out as a servant for the Lord of the Manor.

      By the law, we are to honour our parents—so don’t blame your parents for what University BDSM freaks did to you. That’s the other issue—their whole “testing” apparatus has freaky sexual overtones to it. Pedophilia, of the cognitive variety. Who likes testing children’s minds? Pedophiles of a different sort—who get off on producing hierarchies, rather than fondling genitals.

    • Who are you? I thought I was alone.

  29. To anyone being described as “entitled”: The world is not a giant set-up, an embezzlement scheme or a hopeless wasteland. It is what it is. So do as Spinoza says: “Do not weep, do not wax indignant. Understand.” If you feel that there is nothing in the world for you, then you need to explore more of it. Take up a trade. Plant trees for a season. Go work in the oilpatch, in the mines, in construction. Work in a fast food joint and make it the best fast food joint around. Sell kitch in a mall and take pride in it! Maybe you feel that being a janitor or a security guard is beneath you, but I think it’s merely the conviction that if that’s what you are doing, then that is what you are, for now and forever, that you are nothing more, that you have failed. Well, you’re wrong. Even if you get a high-salary executive job, you are not a “success”. You are what you are, you are you, no more and no less, and you will always be you no matter where you end up, what you do, or how much you make.

  30. We work hard to make school “engaging” in junior and high school, and then they go to university, where the model is mainly lecture, go home and study and write papers and exams. They’re bored to death.

  31. Are the HS graduates even prepared to go to university? Have they even thought of the question “What do I want to be five years from now?”? Have they thought of their own job prospect of their major before they enroll in university? If there is no job at the end of the tunnel, there is no hope. Depression will definitely come. If the parents, HS, and the society discourage HS graduates to enroll in programs that provides no REAL skills that can lead to a job, we can save taxpayers lots of money and the society will be a lot more productive.

  32. I must ask the obvious question here – why are there not more student-led mental health advocacy groups on campus that are open to all kinds of viewpoints, humour and music to balance the discussion? People being serious all the time only accentuates the problem.

  33. I believe that a LOT of parents are themselves putting way too much pressure onto their young adult children to be successful. I hear parents all the time at our school that believe if their son or daughter doesn’t become a doctor over a Tradesperson that they are failures. Its just RIDICULOUS. There is nothing wrong with just being the “Average Joe” and just earning an “HONEST” living. In fact most trades people that are any good make a very “good” living. We are not all cut out to be a doctor, lawyer, scientist, Mayor, etc. Everyones brain is wired differently in the ways that they are able to learn and be successful.

  34. Overcrowding classrooms is like factory farming our youth.

    If we’re serious about youth wellness now, and a healthy economy going forward, we will ensure our youth are learning in an environment that actually supports curiosity, connection with others, and meaningful opportunities to exercise new ideas/technology/techniques. We’ll also ensure they are adequately housed and fed.

  35. Leading authority on positive human development, Dr. Peter Benson, speaks about the science of human thriving, and the spark that gives life hope, direction & purpose.
    http://tedxtalks.ted.com/video/TEDxTC-Peter-Benson-Sparks-How

    This is the science that must underpin our efforts to educate, nurture, and raise our children and youth if we ever hope to increase wellness and decrease bullying, self-harming, and suicide attempts.

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