Road to hell paved with good in­ten­tions

Cape Breton Post - - Editorial -

Why is there a sud­den men­tal health cri­sis on many of our univer­sity cam­puses? Why has the de­mand for men­tal health ser­vices in­creased as much as 200 per cent on some cam­puses? Why has the num­ber of sui­cides and at­tempted sui­cides in­creased? Are we do­ing, or not do­ing some­thing, that is con­tribut­ing to this se­ri­ous sit­u­a­tion? I be­lieve the an­swer to that is yes, at least par­tially.

The ul­ti­mate goal of schools and par­ents is to pro­duce in­de­pen­dent think­ing adults who are ca­pa­ble of liv­ing and learn­ing on their own. Ado­les­cents should be­come in­creas­ingly in­de­pen­dent, making more of their own de­ci­sions and ac­cept­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity for those de­ci­sions. Mis­takes were part of that learn­ing process be­cause mis­takes lead to the de­vel­op­ment of cop­ing skills.

But to­day’s schools don’t just get stu­dents. They also get “heli­copter par­ents” who vi­car­i­ously try to re­live their lives through their chil­dren to make them ap­pear to be the ‘best and bright­est.’

Some of those par­ents do things and make de­ci­sions their chil­dren should be do­ing and making for them­selves. They are liv­ing the Xanadu dream – a mys­ti­cal, non-ex­is­tent, make-be­lieve, sac­cha­rine world – and are on a col­li­sion course with the real world. What they are ac­tu­ally do­ing is rob­bing their chil­dren of op­por­tu­ni­ties to de­velop cru­cial cop­ing skills so they won’t fall apart emo­tion­ally when they have to deal with crit­i­cism or life’s other neg­a­tive ex­pe­ri­ences.

Schools are also guilty of that. When some­thing tragic oc­curs a crises team ar­rives to help stu­dents cope, even at the high school level.

On one such oc­ca­sion, for­mer Glace Bay High prin­ci­pal An­gus MacMullin used a dif­fer­ent ap­proach. He in­vited the Rev. Eric Lynk to ad­dress the stu­dents. Eric de­cided to use the pub­lic ad­dress sys­tem in­stead of an as­sem­bly.

Ini­tially, it was some­what sur­real. Here was this un­fa­mil­iar voice from an in­vis­i­ble per­son calmly ex­plain­ing the Chris­tian be­liefs about death and res­ur­rec­tion, and how our faith-based be­liefs help us to emo­tion­ally cope in life’s dark times and achieve clo­sure.

His ad­dress was cap­ti­vat­ing. When he fin­ished there was a sense of calm­ness through­out the build­ing. As I face­tiously won­dered if any stu­dents thought it was God speak­ing two thoughts came to mind:

1.Are we ac­tu­ally ex­pect­ing th­ese young adults to emo­tion­ally deal with a neg­a­tive sit­u­a­tion on their own; that’s a first, good call An­gus!

2.How many of th­ese young adults just heard that Chris­tian op­tion for the first time?

This “bub­ble-wrapped” gen­er­a­tion is the most over-pro­tected, over-or­ga­nized gen­er­a­tion to walk the planet. They go from ac­tiv­ity to ac­tiv­ity with their par­ents run­ning be­hind them car­ry­ing their equip­ment and/or ap­parel. I have of­ten won­dered if they do any­thing for them­selves and if they could survive in the real world, with­out their par­ents.

When they go to univer­sity some dis­cover they aren’t the ‘best and bright­est’ and they are emo­tion­ally shat­tered be­cause they didn’t de­velop the cop­ing skills needed to deal with life’s neg­a­tive ex­pe­ri­ences.

But were they ever that good or was it an il­lu­sion – their own ver­sion of learned help­less­ness spawned by vi­car­i­ous par­ent­ing, a Xanadu mind­set and a weak ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem? When you com­bine those three false pos­i­tives with the chal­lenges of univer­sity life, an in­creas­ing debt-load, dwin­dling job op­por­tu­ni­ties and weak cop­ing skills doesn’t that be­come the per­fect emo­tional storm for a men­tal melt-down? Al Moore Glace Bay

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