Mental Struggles

The number of students who are telling me they struggle with anxiety and depression is unprecedented in my career. And before anybody suggests I’m causing this, professors at other departments are saying the same. Everybody expected attendance problems because of COVID but they never materialized. Instead, students can’t study because they are depressed, paralyzed by panic attacks, covered in eczema because of stress, etc.

Adults aren’t doing much better. Everybody is on something, be it booze, weed, or scrips just to be able to get through the day. I don’t fully understand what’s causing this. I have heard explanations but I’m not feeling them. But it’s disturbing. I know two people who are behaving very erratically, and these are people I’d never seen in this state. One – a man in his early fifties – started weeping when I made a casual comment about the weather. “Hey, finally it’s nice outside!” I said, and the poor man started shaking, with tears rolling down his face. I’m friendly with his wife, and I know there haven’t been any events that caused this. Nobody died, nobody is sick or unemployed.

We didn’t have any lockdowns to speak of in this area. No vaccine mandates, nothing. So it’s not like people have been locked up for two years and are now devolving.

29 thoughts on “Mental Struggles

  1. “struggle with anxiety and depression”

    It wasn’t that major but I did get behind on a bunch of stuff over the summer, at least part because I was worried/anxious about the university continuing remote “teaching” and wondering if I would rather quit rather than continue doing that…. (the final announcement was about two weeks before classes began). I’d open up a document I was supposed to translate and stare at the screen a while and then do something else….

    I was very energized and active once in person classes began again… apart from my rules-enforced extended covid break…

    The next semester is set to begin in two weeks (weird old German-style academic year schedule) and I’m happy to get back to it.

    I think a big part of it might be uncertainty… the current system in the US seems to be constructed specifically to prevent people from being able to set any kind of predictable routine (even in ‘freer’ areas). It’s happened to some extent here but there’s a lot more cultural knowledge about how to keep on keepin’ on in unpredictable circumstances…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Just adding… societies and cultures are big interconnected things… you can’t just shut things down one place and expect other places to be unaffected. Mass trauma (through enforced and prolonged uncertainty) has been inflicted (purposefully) on a public that’s not nearly as able to deal with it as you probably are.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. This. Americans in general are used to a well-functioning society and order. No one is ready for this amount of uncertainty and upheaval. This is where having grown up in a chaotic society (as did Clarissa, as did I, probably a number of other commenters) is a definite benefit because the tolerance for chaos is much higher and the internal mechanisms for restoring personal equilibrium much more robust.

        However, I am tired of having to be a cheerleader all the time. Several of my research students have been depressed and anxious for the past two years. They need a lot of reassurance and coddling. I think back on my former research advisor, and he’d have laughed me out of the PhD if I’d been even a fraction this needy of his emotional support. Honestly, I want a couple of students who won’t expect me to be their mom / unpaid therapist. I am pretty exhausted by this caregiving role that I never wanted. I want to go back to being just a research advisor.

        The number of undergrads requiring extra testing time and other testing accommodations for these somewhat nebulous conditions has also skyrocketed, in part because the place that approves these requests does zero vetting. There is probably some legitimate increase due to stress, but also a bunch of people getting extra test time because they can and it’s easy.

        Liked by 3 people

        1. I really feel this comment. It’s tiresome that everybody around me is an emotional mess. People keep crying around me, sharing sad stories, I can’t hear the words “mental health struggles” any more.

          The problem is, I’m not made for this stuff. It gives me headaches to offer all this compassion to strangers. It takes out of me what I don’t have or can’t give.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Maybe I’m a horrible person, but I’ve often felt there is a parasitic, almost predatory aspect to this performance of mental anguish in front of random people. It completely sucks the life out of the person who was unwittingly accosted by this crisis and is neither trained as a therapist nor otherwise prepared for this. I am a bit salty because a few months ago I had a graduate student in a big crisis. I spent a month talking to him every day over Zoom because he couldn’t get an appointment with the shrink (everything is booked) and as an international student he has nonexistent support system here, plus he’s generally a loner. I couldn’t leave him to his own devices as he was in pretty rough shape and there was no one else to check up on him, but it seriously messed with my own mood and all facets of my life (including some work deadlines). It was a huge drain of energy and will to live. I was torn between wanting to help him and being resentful that I (as graduate research advisor) had to do so much amateur counseling that I was in no way prepared for.

            Liked by 2 people

  2. A) eczema, at least, is a known side-effect of the vaccines. Going by the DMED numbers, “neurological problems” as a group are up over a thousand percent in 2021. Not in 2020, mind. Only in 2021. How many of these people are suffering vaccine injury? Chronic-fatigue-like symptoms seem really, really common in the adverse events reports I’ve been reading.

    B) Maybe it’s the psychological whiplash of being really, really attached to the covid-lockdown + medical-industrial-complex-as-savior + “now we can be virtuous for staying at home!” while watching the government and media do their synchronized “pivot” ahead of the SOTU speech…

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I’ve also started thinking that there must be something physiological (in addition to the obvious psychological burdens) at play here. It’s very disturbing to observe all this.

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      1. Unfortunately, believing in The Science(tm) will not protect you from the effects of chemical and biological toxicity. They are finding that toxic spike protein expression tends to be higher post-vaccine, and for a longer period of time (months!) than post-infection. That alone is gonna make a whole lot of people feel like crap, even if there were nothing else going on at all. Shovel in a heaping helping of denial (“I’m one of the good people! I did the right thing! Nothing bad can happen to be because of it!… therefore this can’t possibly be happening because of the vaccine.) and you have a recipe for crazy. I have read an absolutely astonishing number of “My friend/spouse/parent got the booster, and an hour/day/week later they had neuropathy/stroke/heartattack/clots/fainted/etc. but they are absolutely certain it’s not a vax side-effect. Why can’t they see it?

        **addendum about the DMED: that’s 1000% increase in military people who are on average younger, healthier, and more fit than the rest of us. Imagine what it’s like the the general population of sedentary, drugged, all-ages Americans.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. note: I think no matter how carefully they execute the pivot, some people are gonna break. This whole scene has given free rein to a lot of people’s underlying mental illnesses, and those demons don’t wanna go back in the closet.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I think it’s just the notion that things are not ‘normal’ that are exhausting us all. We are told we are in this temporary period, and no matter whether our lives are influenced by it or not, we are in limbo waiting for things to “go back to normal”. We have no control over when that happens and for many people losing control is a major stressor.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I have noticed a similar trend with students and colleagues. I think some of it is masks. Human are supposed to see each other’s faces. It’s very subtly exhausting and depressing to spend the whole day talking and interacting with people behind pieces of cloth.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I hate wearing them and prefer to see faces, but the part of me that has trouble recognizing facial expressions is elated with the masks because I no longer feel like I’m missing nonverbal parts of conversations. It’s much less fatiguing for me than it could be, just because of that. From a facial recognition point of view, though, it can be horrible because I’ve had people recognize me without a mask and I have no idea who they are because my brain only sees the mask context.

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      1. What happened to me is that my brain is now imagining the faces and the expressions I don’t see. I’m starting to get obsessive about it because I have imagined that a woman at work hates me and makes ugly faces at me under the mask. But I have no way of knowing if it’s true. I’m constantly interacting with people who look completely differently from what I imagine. Then I see them on Zoom and it scrambles my brain.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. See, I’m the exact opposite. I don’t visualize faces well at all, so I don’t imagine these things with the masks — only if I see the faces themselves. Brains are weird.

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    2. This was the point I kept trying (without success) to make to our local school board when the masking debate was going on. Not only are masks uncomfortable, ugly, and ineffective, they are also dehumanizing. Forcing children (who are not even at risk from covid!) to wear muzzles all day as if they were rabid animals teaches them to live in fear, to see the world as a scary, dangerous place, to be afraid of the very air they breathe, to view other human beings with suspicion, to see them as dangerous individuals who are likely to infect them with a deadly virus given half a chance. I made this point over and over, politely and respectfully, and it fell on deaf ears every damn time.

      (For the record, my kids are all adults and my grandson is being home schooled, so I don’t have a dog in this fight. But the suffering of children and adult indifference to it infuriate me.)

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  6. As a teacher I mostly agree with just about everything that is being said in the comments. That an educator should have a nurturing side goes without saying, since significant cognitive progress may only be made though positive affect. However, I consider it a dangerous development that so many students should see their teachers as a form of mental health support or, what is worse, as validators of their feelings/struggles/emotional states: this is a recipe for disaster all round.
    There should never be any confusion with regard to our role as educators. Moreover, taking on a role as “counselors” or even general “cheer-uppers” for which one has not received professional training may lead to serious problems. When students express anxiety or show symptoms of depression or other forms of emotional distress, they should be referred to the relevant professionals: there is no room for improvisation here.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “dangerous development that so many students should see their teachers as a form of mental health support”

      The phrase “Well, I can’t help you with that (some ‘mental health’ issue brought up). What can I help you with?” does wonders …..

      Liked by 2 people

    2. Absolutely! You can make things a lot worse if you offer psychological counseling that you aren’t qualified to do. Also, if you haven’t received training in how to prevent the psychological troubles of others from draining your energy, you can get harmed, too. Nobody would try to treat a painful tooth in a teacher’s office because we all understand that a teacher is unqualified. Depression is just as – or more – serious than a dental problem. We shouldn’t trivialize it by clumsy amateurish psychotherapy.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. We are pushed into more engagement with student mental health by the institution. There are countless emails and seminars instructing us how identify students in crisis, what to do, what resources to share, etc. The actual mental health resources on campus are a joke — the crisis line will try to establish if a student is in immediate danger of killing themselves (I was on a call with them and with the student from above post, so I know of what I speak) and if they decide not, they basically tell the student to make an appointment and have a nice life. But getting an appointment with a therapist or a psychiatrist takes over a month of waiting. What are students supposed to do in the meantime? Of course they will latch on whomever they can latch on if the interactions provides even a little bit of relief. I certainly have no intention of being anyone’s therapist, but even providing a supportive listening ear is extremely taxing. And it’s not easy to tell someone to go away when you know they have no one else to talk to. I met with that student over Zoom to check up on him and listen to him daily for a month, until the day he finally had a therapist appointment. Some days, he was in pretty rough shape (no sleep etc). I don’t know what would have happened if I just hadn’t checked up on him all that time and had instead told him to go away.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. It’s wonderful of you to do that for this student but it’s also OK for one not to want to or not be able to do it.

          The last time I saw my friend who died of cancer, she was in a very bad place. The pain was 100% psychological because she had no physical symptom. But mentally, she was in agony. After I spent the day with her, she was visibly better. She started smiling and even making plans for the future. But what she took out of me, I had no way to replenish. By the end of the day, I was on the verge of a very dark depression myself. I know that if I talked to her every day she would have lived longer. But I couldn’t do it. I had a very small child (my friend got diagnosed on the day I first felt Klara move inside me). I feel so guilty for not being there for my friend like she needed but I couldn’t do it. I didn’t have it in me to give. Everything I had was going to my kid.

          I feel terrible for students in crisis. But I also feel resentful when people try to take out of me what I don’t want to give.

          And yes, our mental health counseling on campus is as pathetic as what you describe, unfortunately.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Oh, I get that feeling completely. I definitely felt like I was forced (through my own guilt) to give something I didn’t want to. It is extremely taxing and intrusive. I completely understand not wanting to engage.

            Liked by 1 person

  7. I think it is a mental health fad and social contagion. Cultivated mental fragility and ‘self diagnosis’ was a fad on Tumblr. There are TikTok contagions of kid thinking they have ocd, and depression. Campus services spend lots of time encouraging students to check in on their mental health. This makes them obsess about it. We keep repeating the young people have anxiety so then they live up to the expectation. In the early 90s there was a fad of diagnosing multiple personality disorder and recovered memories, then in the 2000s everyone suddenly had depression and they sold lots of pills. Now they are diagnosing anxiety and shelling out Xanax. It’s mostly fake, or rather, it’s real in the same way the dancing man is was , in a few years everyone will claim to have some other bs diagnosis with some new bs pills to shell out.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There is definitely an element of social contagion involved, just as there is in the case of all of these kids suddenly declaring themselves transgender. Both the “I suffer from mental illness” fad and the “I’m transgender” fad are also easy ways for would-be social justice warriors to score oppression points. It’s hard for a white middle-class kid who grew up in an intact family to get any street cred as an SJW when he/she has never suffered oppression of any kind, but if they self-identify as mentally ill and/or transgender, then they are suddenly able to identify with the oppressed and the marginalized and the discriminated-against. It’s an amazing and horrifying thing to watch.

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      1. “I suffer from mental illness” fad and the “I’m transgender” fad

        I tend to think those are unhappy misfit teens with no available sub-cultures around to join.
        Those were traditionally built around some less-than-mainstream music scene and co-ed and now almost all the (striaght) guys are more into video games than music (and music is essentially…. culturally exhausted in the US). They’re doing what they can with the resources available.

        I’m not the first person to notice this but it’s impossible to not see once pointed out (if you’ve ever dealt with a youth sub-culture).

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    2. ” mental health fad and social contagion”

      Very much so along with semantic inflation – ‘mental health’ problems often just mean feeling stressed or sad or out of sorts and does not actually reference any diagnosable disorder…

      Liked by 1 person

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