Safe spaces exacerbate mental health crisis among Gen Z in colleges

Colleges are facing an unprecedented mental health crisis, with over 1,000 suicides occurring on American campuses annually, making it the second leading cause of death among college students. According to three out of four student-affairs officials, campus mental health has worsened in the past year. However, colleges’ attempts to protect students’ mental well-being often exacerbate the issue. Strategies like safe spaces, trigger warnings, and speech codes, intended to shield students from harm, ironically result in producing a generation of individuals who are dependent on such coddling and ill-prepared for the realities of life beyond college. The last thing young people need upon arriving at college is to be told that they are fragile and will be protected. Unfortunately, this message is pervasive across campuses. The number of American teens feeling inadequate and unhappy has soared in recent years. Some institutions, like Stony Brook University and Michigan State University, have implemented safe spaces and inclusive language guides to avoid certain ideas and language seen as offensive. Moreover, some universities, including Cornell and NYU, have entertained the idea of trigger warnings and bias-response hotlines to cater to students’ mental well-being. These initiatives perpetuate the belief that students need protection, even from uncomfortable or challenging topics. Greg Lukianoff and Rikki Schlott argue in their book, “The Canceling of the American Mind,” that these attempts to protect young people’s mental health only contribute to their fragility. Instead, colleges should focus on providing adequate access to mental health services and teaching resilience. Trauma should not merely be acknowledged; students should be empowered to work through it. While some universities have invested in mental health services and initiatives, the ultimate solution lies in providing individualized support through psychologists rather than relying solely on administrative actions.

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