In this article, "Suicide on Campus and the Pressure of Perfection", readers meet a student from the University of Pennsylvania who describes her mental health challenges while attending the elite school. In addition, we also discover what Penn's Task Force on campus mental health (developed following student Madison Holleran's death) have discovered may be contributing to rising rates of mental exhaustion and stress, including social media, helicopter parents, and the culture of hyperachievement.
"It’s called the Duck Syndrome. A duck appears to glide calmly across the water, while beneath the surface it frantically, relentlessly paddles.
“Nobody wants to be the one who is struggling while everyone else is doing great,” said Kahaari Kenyatta, a Penn senior who once worked as an orientation counselor. “Despite whatever’s going on — if you’re stressed, a bit depressed, if you’re overwhelmed — you want to put up this positive front.”
Citing a “perception that one has to be perfect in every academic, cocurricular and social endeavor,” the task force report described how students feel enormous pressure that “can manifest as demoralization, alienation or conditions like #anxiety or depression.”
William Alexander, director of Penn’s counseling and psychological services, has watched a shift in how some young adults cope with challenges. “A small setback used to mean disappointment, or having that feeling of needing to try harder next time,” he said. Now? “For some students, a mistake has incredible meaning.”"