Jeff Vankooten

Senior Consultant, Mazeway


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Why do you think depression is on the rise in college students today?

I'm working on presentations engaging the issue of good mental health and resiliency in college and university students - focusing on depression. I'm curious as to what the collective TED community thinks.

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    Feb 19 2011: We are caught between generations. We walk into a world that requires 10 years experience to get into, and a Masters degree, and we have no way to get that experience.

    We have great ideas, great visions, but on a large scale, have no outlets.

    The quality of the local education is pathetic. I quit a masters program because it was a waste of time. It was not 'higher education.'

    College students also turn to substances to 'have a good time.' Its rampant. When half the 28k students are drunk 3-5 nights a week, it takes its toll. We've done a Pavolovian trick on ourselves and fun now = a substance.

    Honestly, I'm depressed because I know my potential, and I know that HS and College have done little to refine me, to guide me, direct me, and prepare me for the 'real world.' Now with a degree of applied physics I am not directly qualified to do much else than more school. And in the 'real world' working for a fortune 1000 and then a fortune 100 over the last 5 years, I'm treated with a massive resistance to change and pushed to the fringe, stuck in a dead end job working well above my pay grade.

    This world, on a large part, has forgotten the value in apprenticeship. Everyone has their own, and 20 years from now there is going to be a massive loss of knowledge due to a lack of intellectual transfer, and education creep. Requiring higher education, and constantly lowering standards will just shorten the working life, and extend the educational span. The problem is that its all filler. Why do we simplify the SAT over and over again? Mensa does not accept at 1600 SAT score as proof of intelligence anymore.

    Eh. Apparently your question pulled my string. Hopefully some of that made sense.
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    Feb 20 2011: I work at a private school in England. There are a lot of very bright young people from all over the world but the pressure is not to study something they love, it's to get into a University which will look good on their resume. That said when many of them do not make to the Russel Register university of their choice they feel that they have failed already. Then they are now being saddled with a huge debt in order to go to university to study something their parents want them to study and not the thing they are passionate about. Education should be an amazing journey of self discovery as well as gaining knowledge which will serve them later in life. We don't need any more disillusioned young people leaving a university they did not want to go to after studying a course of education they did not want to study and feeling like they have little to offer the world. WE should be encouraging young people to make choices they want to make not what we want them to make and they should be supported in feeling good about those choices.
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    Feb 20 2011: I find there's too much information, too many possible career choices, and very little true training. We take a bunch of general crappy courses that focus on theoretical concepts which not only not develop our intelligence, but makes us wonder how boring our future job is going to be. Then, if we do love something or have a passion for it, it seems always impossible to get to. As in we are never good enough for it - we need not only a undergrad, but often a masters or other studies to do something we could do with just a few months of practical training. And there's not much creativity left at that level of studies, unless you're in arts, and then everyone is judging you as if you are wasting your life. Even arts programs are so structured and have so many hierarchical levels. Too much rigidity in the programs that are being studied. Social pressure to ''have fun'' and blend in. Social pressure, after so many examples of successes, to be successful and have money and possessions.

    To sum up, there's a lot of pressure, we feel like everything has been invented or done already, and we have no hands on experience for creating something new: just a bunch of outdates paradigms we learned by heart.

    It would be great if anyone would ask US what we truly want. We might not know it fully, but education should encourage us to be creative and think outside the box, not to form a bunch of standard employees.
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      Feb 20 2011: Codruta there is someone who can ask you what you really want and it's you. I know that seems unfair and possible a cliche answer, but the truth is there is no one out there who can give you your hearts desire only you. The rest of what you said is right on. I chose my life a little late, I was 38 but I am so glad I did make that choice. I have never been happier in what I do and I am thrilled to get up every morning. DO NOT WAIT! Take control of your life and have it turn out the way you say it should. By pass depression and have a great life!
  • Feb 18 2011: Many kids are in college now simply because there are not many other options to find a challenging and fuffilling carreer. They don't truly want to be there, they are going into debt, just going through the grind to hopefully find a potential job they may like.
  • Feb 25 2011: I do not except the premise , nor any specific study, that makes the claim that depression is on the rise amongst college students.Simply put, it is a flawed study you have accepted as unflawed, apparently.
  • Feb 21 2011: They are devoid of personal power in the institutions of which they are the vital part. They are acted upon, but cannot act. They are reactive. Processed. treated.

    The cure is empowerment in the schools. Students should run schools and colleges. Democratization will lift their depression.
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    Feb 19 2011: First, I would ask if rates of depression in college students is rising because more of them really are becoming depressed or if the rate is due to better diagnosis. Improving medical knowledge leads to people being diagnosed when the might not have been a decade or more ago. i.e., long ago, many people with depression, bi-polar, and anxiety disorders would be lumped into "schizophrenia". Similarly, rates of autism appear to climb because of better diagnosis and the recognition that it is a spectrum, while the actual prevalence of the disorder in the population has remained the same.

    So, are today's college students more depressed, or were more of yesteryear's college students going undiagnosed?

    My next guess would be that a higher percentage of the population is attending college than in the past--the higher rate could be due to a bigger sample of people and not necessarily anything to do with college.
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    Feb 19 2011: College student populations have become increasingly diverse across the nation. I would contend that the amount of older students is on the rise. A lot of these older students have already had careers that many probably didn't want to give up.

    If I was going to study this subject, beyond my observations, I would look at differences in age, and life circumstances. There is a smaller chance that more students that don't belong, or want to go, to college show more signs of depression and stress as well.
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    Feb 18 2011: The rising costs of higher education and resulting debt combined with a terrible job market for new graduates creates a great deal of stress. Starting your adult life in debt that you may never be free from is a tough position to be in immediately following childhood.

    Students are also more likely to have to work full-time while trying to keep up grades, which is an extremely precarious balancing act.