On many college campuses, instances of stress, depression, and other mental health problems are rising. Experts say today’s students are facing very different challenges from what their parents did. Now a growing number of U.S. colleges have begun teaching an important life skill: how to fail.
Learning to fail may seem a strange talent. After all, the Bible says, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.” (Colossians 3:23) But the Bible also speaks often about enduring patiently and not becoming weary (Colossians 1:11, Galatians 6:9)—clear signs that life can often be difficult.
Across the country, campus mental health officials report that students often seem overwhelmed by everyday stresses.
“Anxiety is rising like crazy,” says Nance Roy, a psychologist who works with schools.
Colleges are introducing programs to help students ease their anxieties around failure and teach them to cope with it. These include “grit coaching,” “resilience resource fairs,” and “Adulting 101” workshops.
Experts propose theories about why today’s students sometimes struggle. Some think younger folks just aren’t tough enough. Others say social media showcases images of perfection that make students feel bad about their own lives. And although some folks may ridicule a generation of “fragile snowflakes” who need “safe spaces,” mental health experts say students today grapple with pressures past generations didn’t—including recurring threats of school violence.
“For many students, it’s the first time they’re navigating independently away from home,” psychologist Roy says, “and if they also don’t have basic life skills, it’s sort of a perfect storm.”
(Panel members at Bentley University share some of their worst setbacks to illustrate that even successful people sometimes fail. AP Photo/Elise Amendola)