College students are losing their minds.
According to the new annual survey by the Association for University and College Counseling Center Directors, released last week, the two top complaints that send students to the counseling office—anxiety (47.3 percent), and depression (40.01 percent)—have remained fairly stable for several years. But the survey saw an uptick in one intriguing category: “issues of oppression (racism, sexism, homophobia, etc.).”
Complaints of this disorder jumped from 6.6 percent in last year’s survey to 8.7 percent in this year’s.
Anxiety and depression might be expected, given college loan debt and the lackluster job market many of these students will face (and the normal social and academic pressures of college). But oppression? I don’t want to make too much of a slightly more than two percentage point increase, but what gives? To put this in context, more students have recently sought counseling because of “oppression issues” than because of sexual assault (8.3 percent), eating disorders (7 percent), or drug abuse (7.7 percent).
Some of the feelings of oppression reported may be the result of the kinds of organizations that counseling offices target for outreach. Women’s centers, routinely dominated by feminists who embrace the ideology of oppression, and LBGT resource centers are among these.
One of the main vehicles for this message these days is the aptly named “Tunnel of Oppression,” an “interactive theater experience” held at college campuses throughout the country. “The Tunnel of Oppression is meant to move you—it is meant to make you upset—it is meant to make you think—it is meant to empower you to ‘Be the Light’ and to help create positive change,” says the announcement for this year’s Tunnel at Rutgers in Camden, N.J. The Tunnel promises to “raise awareness through skits, play acting and videos” of “acts of oppression that exist globally and in our American society.”
While a Tunnel may upset you, it won’t make you think because the appeal is purely emotional. At UNC Chapel Hill, Tunnel “participants will experience the following scenes of oppression: ability, body image, gender identity, homelessness, homophobia, religion, interpersonal violence, race, human trafficking, and mental health.” If you can’t find something to identify with in this menu, you aren’t trying.
Also alarming, the Tunnels are sometimes used to address actual mental health issues. Peter Earley, a former New York Times reporter who has written on mental illness, approvingly quoted Indiana State University student Charlene Johnson’s description:
When participants came into the room, they were assigned one of the three mental health conditions: either depression, anxiety, or schizophrenia. To simulate what it feels like to be depressed, students put on a heavy backpack, and weights were placed around their wrists to simulate the oppressive weight that comes with depression.
Of course, this does not simulate depression—this shows as much about clinical depression as the “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” events (wherein college lads dress up in high heels and draggy make-up) tell anybody what it is like to be a woman.
Although our first (and second) reaction to students who, encouraged by such activities, believe themselves to be oppressed may be to laugh, we shouldn’t. All of this is only encouraging the snowflake generation, who will soon be suing the pants of their employers for microaggressions they experience in the workplace. And truthfully it is possible these kids are suffering from a genuine mental health problem: They are completely delusional.