A university has begun offering courses on how to take on adult life and its challenges. The course, meant to prepare students to accept failure as part of adult life, was introduced after realizing an alarming number of students were signing up for crisis counseling.
East Carolina University (ECU) has begun offering “Adulting” classes to help students deal with the stresses of adulthood. The university was compelled to start the class after witnessing an alarming rise in demand for counseling services and increased behavioral issues. Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Virginia Hardy presented a report to the University Affairs Committee of ECU’s Board of Trustees in July. The report had some concerning insights about the psychological needs of students.
In the past two years, the university has had a 16 percent jump in appointments for student counseling. However, even more alarmingly, appointments for crisis counseling were up by 52 percent, according to the recent report. Essentially, there was an alarming jump in student conduct, Title IX, and general Dean of Students cases in the 2014-15 academic year.
Apart from crisis counseling, the demand for disability support services and the university’s Behavioral Concerns and Care teams spiked as well. Needless to say, the report shocked officials on the Greenville, North Carolina, campus, shared ECU Director of Counseling Valerie Kisler-van Reede,
“It wasn’t just the numbers, it was the intensity and severity. It felt like something very different was going on — a lack of resiliency and the ability to cope.”
“For years, college students cited depression as the main reason for seeking counseling help, but that has shifted. The number one complaint is anxiety — the feeling of being overwhelmed, and panic attacks. A lot of it is worry about college, but [students] are also worried more generally about managing their lives.”
The university decided to expand its staff and bolster resources towards the Center for Counseling and Student Development. ECU added two new counseling positions to meet the increased demand as well as the complexity of the cases it was steadily dealing with. The university also noticed a spike in the use of narcotics on campus. The faculty is confident the rise in use of drugs was a coping mechanism and not necessarily drug abuse.
Besides beefing up faculty, the college introduced a path-breaking new program. Christened Recognition, Insight, and Openness, or RIO, the program is meant to help students improve in the areas that should come naturally as adults. The program teaches students self-talk, journaling, mindfulness, and other cognitive-affective stress management techniques. In other words, ECU began an “adulting” program. The word is an urban slang that describes how to behave like a responsible adult.
The college isn’t alone in believing that students are failing miserably when it comes to acting like responsible adults and facing life’s challenges with confidence. Colleges across the United States have reached similar conclusions and feel their students just don’t have a fully developed coping mechanism to deal with the setbacks life throws at you. While the immediate manifestation of such poor coping mechanism is noticeable in the dropping grades and performance, the long-term effect is much more dreadful as these young adults step out of the relatively secure world of a college campus.
ECU Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Virginia Hardy notes that students today do not have many opportunities to manage failure when they are growing up and largely blames social media for the same. The continuous digital reel of picture-perfect versions of friends and colleagues has robbed them of “normalization,” she insists.
“Technology, especially social media, also plays a part. People see picture-perfect versions of their friends’ and acquaintances’ lives and assume theirs ought to follow the same path. There’s no real normalization about what success is. Younger people think success is going from point A to point B without a lot of stuff in between, a straight shot.”
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