You really don’t know what it’s like to feel alone when you are attending a university who enrolls 30,000 students, living in a building that holds 1,000 of those, residing 20 minutes from three siblings, two parents, a dog and a girlfriend (the last two give all the kisses a guy could need) – yet each night you feel surrounded by nothing but concrete and white paint. This is not only a personal rendition; this is one story out of the thousands attending our Canadian universities.
I felt alone in my six bedroom advertised “suite,” adorned with a fully-furnished bedroom, spacious living room and squeaky marble kitchen. At $630 a month most would call me spoiled, and if they knew I was a humanities student some might have far more selective words for this “total waste of money” at my parent’s hard-worked expense of course. This attack of negative stigma towards the faculty of humanities is a relentless one in this recessive economy.
Take online forums who have recently revealed to me the surprising factoid that I am “literally burning my parent’s money” but then maybe I should also stop googling “Is humanities a good major?”
However, this piece is not going to be a heroic defense to the faculty of humanities, but as the sarcastic undertone reveals: I feel like I am working towards a worthless degree – better yet, a worthless life.
What my rented room did not advertise was the impending deep depression awaiting me right behind the pretty door. I was a first year who was not living on-campus. Admittedly, that was my fault as I had missed the residence application deadline, in what was a grand display of my university level intelligence. I lived in a dark pit, in which it was in every way. It may have looked like the Ritz of residences but I hated everything inside its walls. I lived with four other upper-year strangers, two of whom spoke little English and one of whom I saw only twice over four months of living together. They locked themselves in their own separate rooms, scurried to the washroom when needed, generally just kept to themselves and I followed suit.
I was miserable. I fell into a routine that started as eat-class-sleep but evolved into sleep-sleep-sleep and sleep some more. I had gone to class with all intentions of getting amazing grades, but that spark faded – fast. All-nighters for essays turned into no essay at all and missing a couple classes turned into no class at all. The long and the short of it is: I got lonely and gave up on everything else because of it. I felt the pressure of academic success and faltered on it when I didn’t have anybody around me for support. I saw my university career as useless in four years so I thought I might as well admit defeat now.
I lost the one thing I took for granted: human interaction. This depressive state exists in student houses, apartments, commuters and even packed residences on-campus. Students become hermits when they have to budget their time around emotionally strenuous pressure to perform well in school. They just do not have time to properly recuperate from stress through relaxation and socialization, in what I would say, essentials to not kill yourself.
All through secondary and post-secondary education we students are bombarded with fear – you could call them threats. We are told three basic premises: “you need to go to university”, “you need good grades in university to get a good job”, “don’t do any of those two and you will be a garbage man for the rest of your life.” These are the statements that the modern student mind revolves around. These authoritative intimidations are assertions of attitude coming from the teachers, parents and students – these people being the most influential to the education system. It’s not like these are completely false statements at all; the economy is still recovering from 2008, fewer jobs are to be had, existing workers are retiring later and especially a growing number of high school graduates, out of societal imposition, choose to go to university creating an insanely competitive environment in comparison to previous decades. The university degree and ever-more so the quality of that degree is as well rising in importance as much as it is falling in value, as larger percentages of first-world populations are acquiring undergraduate degrees. The contemporary educational environment is one that cultivates mental illness through the increased importance of its unfortunate necessity in capitalistic society.
It is easy to be just a number in university, as it is much too easy to fall into a routine of a never-ending lonely loop. Waking up, going to class, coming home, (maybe) doing homework, eating a couple times a day, watching a movie, going to sleep becomes a rudimentary and rigidly lonesome life. You repeat this process daily, all with insurmountable expectations, creating a mountain of stress.
This increasing importance on educational performance is reaching breaking point for many students. With the pressure coming from all aspects of their lives, a student can become helpless in a sea of papers due the next morning. Any human-being can fall to overwhelming pressure, students are no different.
Supported by shocking national statistics, this illustrates a university experience that entails a life of limited fun in fall to the need to devote as much time to educational performance at the expense of human saneness.
This is an epidemic with no clear cut solution in this capitalistic society. We can obviously start by building a stronger economy but all that is known is that mental health should always precede a mark given out by a Scantron machine.
People are plenty aware of mental illness in society, but without a physical image for the disease, mental illness thrives on its covertness.
It seems university students are falling to mental illness faster than they are graduating.