Have you read recently about the increase in suicide among college students? It's concerning. The photo at the left is a traveling exhibition by Active Minds, an advocacy group. It consists of 1,100 backpacks representing the approximate number of undergraduates who commit suicide each year. Photo Credit Activeminds.org
There's so much pressure on college students to succeed, to measure up to external expectations. Suicides among college students is increasing, as reported in the New York Times. The Times describes young adults struggling to meet their parents' expectations about getting into "the right college," and once there, feeling pressure because there always seem to be other students who are prettier, have more friends, go to cooler parties, get better grades.
Julie Lythcott-Haims, former dean of freshmen at Stanford University described her concerns about how helicopter parents demand perfectionism, demand success, but don't teach their children how to fail. Lythcott-Haims says she watched the collision of these two social forces up close.
Ms. Lythcott-Haims said that she was concerned about how students could describe their successes, but not say who they were. She was also concerned about the near-constant cellphone contact of parents. She described them as "helicopter parents who turned into lawnmower parents," who go beyond hovering to clear obstacles out of their child’s way. Ms. Lythcott-Haims said found most disconcerting the fact that the students, instead of being embarrassed, felt grateful.
Oddly, researchers at University of Pennsylvania researchers studying friendship have found that students’ best friends aren’t classmates or romantic partners, but parents.
In 2005, Ms. Lythcott-Haims wrote in an op-ed piece for The Chicago Tribune that children “deserve to be strengthened, not strangled, by the fierceness of a parent’s love,” If by adulthood they cannot fend for themselves, she asked, “shouldn’t we worry?”
The NY Times article states:
"In June, Ms. Lythcott-Haims, who left Stanford in 2012, published a book on the subject, 'How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success.' ”
"These observations echo those made by the psychologist Alice Miller in her seminal book for therapists, 'The Drama of the Gifted Child: The Search for the True Self.' In the book, published in 1979 and translated into 30 languages, Ms. Miller documents how some especially intelligent and sensitive children can become so attuned to parents’ expectations that they do whatever it takes to fulfill those expectations — at the expense of their own feelings and needs. This can lead to emotional emptiness and isolation. 'In what is described as depression and experienced as emptiness, futility, fear of impoverishment, and loneliness,' she wrote, 'can usually be recognized as the tragic loss of the self in childhood.'”
We should be concerned about young, super-talented young people's loss of wonder, innocence and their ability to wholeheartedly embrace themselves as unique. What is wrong with this society that judges a book by its cover and success in an individual by how many symbols of success he / she has been able to collect?
See the entire NY Times article here. Scelfo, Julie. "Campus Suicide and the Pressure of Perfection." New York Times 27 July 2015, Internet ed., Education Life sec. Web. 29 July 2015. <http://nyti.ms/1LN02Fd>.