By: Aaron L. Pope

Life is hard, but it’s not a disease.

It didn’t take Macleans magazine long at all to announce to the world that there is a mental health crisis – emphasis on the word crisis – in Ontario’s post-secondary institutions.

Apparently the proof is in Cornell, an American Ivy league college near Ithaca N.Y. Suicide is so rampant at Cornell that the administration has even gone far enough as to install suicide nets along one of its bridges.

Granted it’s a little more proactive than a mop and bucket.

Colleges are not meant to be mental health facilities, they are supposed to educate the best and the brightest amongst us.

Unlike past decades, nearly every person has the opportunity to apply to college. If they work hard, pay attention in class and apply themselves, there is a place for them. It’s a shame, but not everyone is lucky enough to get through the doors.

For those fortunate enough to have been accepted into any post-secondary school in Ontario, the fall of their first semester can be a scary and confusing time. Which, I grant is stressful.

It can also be one of the most exhilarating experiences of one’s life. There are a lot of new people and big ideas, not to mention the occasional keg party and late night “study” sessions with a willing and consenting partner.
One thing is certain about going to college – it is hard. It’s meant to be hard and not everyone gets to graduate from the program they imagined they would, nor do they get to graduate at the top of their class.

The breaking news in last Septembers issue of Macleans magazine seemed to indicate that no matter the background of the student or the difficulties purposely built into higher education – you – yes you – could end up suffering the horrors of depression or, god forbid, suicide.

According to the article published in Macleans, seven and a half per cent of students with no history of mental illness will begin to suffer from depression and anxiety during their time in post-secondary.

“There’s probably never been a more complicated time to be growing up than right now,” said psychiatrist Janis Whitlock, who was quoted in the Macleans article.

Asking a mental health professional about the general state of mental health in the world seems to be a little like asking a butcher if we’re getting enough meat in our diets. The advice is sound, but take it with a grain of salt and some BBQ sauce.

Perhaps that is the case. Perhaps the work load has gone up so much students prefer throwing themselves off a bridge as a subtle alternative to bombing their art history exam. Perhaps their parents are so horrible that they hover over their college son or daughter constantly reminding them how much they sacrificed just so they might have a chance at getting the college diploma that will finally convince themselves they are not horrible parents after all.

If that is too much for a student to handle, maybe they should do something else. I’m not saying suicide, which is a permanent solution to a temporary problem, not to mention dumb as hell. I’m saying take a year off and follow your favourite band across the country. Get a job, learn to sail, take that giant student loan and invest in an internet start-up. Do something, because you not being able to handle college is getting in the way of those who can.

According to the article in Macleans, 25 per cent of students who go visit their schools mental health counsellors are suffering from some form of legitimate mental health crisis. That means for every student who is sick and needs help, there are three others sitting beside them who want a shoulder to cry on.

In the meantime, if you are stressed out over tests, overdue assignments or a break-up with that person you were sure is “the one,” I can assure you, it’s not a disease, it’s just life.

To ease these stresses, I’ll make the following suggestions; make a study schedule and stick to it, include breaks and an end time to put the pen down and relax. Turn the phone, the computer, the tablet and whatever else anyone can get a hold of you on, off. Nothing is so important you can’t have an hour to yourself without staring at three-inch screen. And if it’s a break up, sweat pants and a strip club if you’re a guy, and iced cream and Richard Gere movies for the ladies. However, I don’t know a lot about relationships, you would be better off talking to someone who does.
Trust me friends, it’s better to find out now that life is hard. It doesn’t get any better than this. In a short time the only person who will listen to your belly-aching is the bartender of your local dive bar. And they’re only listening to earn tip money.