Social isolation is hurting students

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There’s a huge gap in conversations. People use the excuse that they want to respect each other’s privacy, but we become and stay strangers to each other.

There’s no way that I know, other than sharing and talking about our feelings and thoughts, no matter how scary and discomforting they are, to connect with others.

We say, How are you?’ without actually meaning it, and we hear, ‘Good, how are you?’ without caring whether the answer is real or honest, or not.

We are systematically being trained not to get personal with each other and as a result, we don’t know how to react to each other’s personal problems.

We never learn how to listen properly and analyze personal crises for our friends or ourselves and it’s hurting us.

We see the disaster, we see it approaching, but at the same time we seem not to care that much. Life goes on, and we wait for our turn to come.

On March 9 a student jumped off the 12th floor of a residence in Waterloo and was added to the growing list of students who have committed suicide on our lovely campus.

After a few months I don’t hear much more about the deaths. It seems no one is willing to get to the root of the problem.

We go back to our classes, offices, and labs, and the routine of life comes back pretty quickly.

In North America stress and anxiety is treated as if they are taboo or as if it’s wrong to feel stress.

There’s a huge tendency not to focus on the actual topic, but on ways to handle the situation.

“Feeling stressed is not the problem, it’s not talking about it.”

Graphic by Lea Clarin

However, you can never solve an issue unless you engage in a deep and uncomfortable discussion about it.

The argument goes something like, ‘I am already stressed; talking about it makes me more stressed, so let’s not talk about it, just tell me how I can cope with it.’

Irvin Yalom argues in the book, Existential Psychotherapy, stress and anxiety are at the root of existence and there is no point in running away from them.

The therapist’s job is not to eliminate stress, but reduce it to a reasonable level to give the patients more insight into the situation and themselves.

Feeling stressed is not the actual problem, it’s not talking about it.

I see that we don’t share our inner feelings with each other.

Many students don’t feel as though their education and well-being matter to the institution, myself included.

It’s the institution’s responsibility to provide a safe environment and I don’t think UW is doing that.

I feel as though the campus lacks liveliness and puts profit and competition over its students.

Undergraduate students go into a highly competitive environment and have to go through a stressful regiment to prove they are fit to continue the co-op program, a program which I strongly think is harming the mental health of the undergraduates.

I feel as though there is no willingness to engage students politically, to the determent of a well-rounded education.

The mission that the university seems to emulate is producing skilled workers with no perception of what life is really about. 

Arash Ahmadi

Physics, Ph.D Candidate

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