Jan 01 2009

I knew they were nuts

Category: education,higher education,societyharmonicminer @ 10:43 am

I have recently played a part in the revision of the general studies curriculum at a Christian university. One of the topics of discussion was whether all students should be required to take psychology. Many of us felt that psychology is a “baby discipline” without fully formed content as yet, as witnessed by the “fad of the decade” approach to theories of personality, theories of cognition, etc.  A psychology faculty member argued (incredibly, to me) that half of our incoming students had serious psychological problems, and that we had to address them.  I asked if there was any evidence that students who had taken an introductory college psychology course had better mental health at any point later in life.  (There is none, of course….)  By way of admitting this without admitting it, my faculty friend insisted that the way HE teaches it is different, and he IS effective at teaching the content of “intro to psychology” while also achieving therapeutic goals.  All of this struck me as “special pleading”, of course, but it seems that maybe he was right that half of college students are whacko:

Results Almost half of college-aged individuals had a psychiatric disorder in the past year. The overall rate of psychiatric disorders was not different between college-attending individuals and their non–college-attending peers. The unadjusted risk of alcohol use disorders was significantly greater for college students than for their non–college-attending peers (odds ratio = 1.25; 95% confidence interval, 1.04-1.50), although not after adjusting for background sociodemographic characteristics (adjusted odds ratio = 1.19; 95% confidence interval, 0.98-1.44). College students were significantly less likely (unadjusted and adjusted) to have a diagnosis of drug use disorder or nicotine dependence or to have used tobacco than their non–college-attending peers. Bipolar disorder was less common in individuals attending college. College students were significantly less likely to receive past-year treatment for alcohol or drug use disorders than their non–college-attending peers.

Conclusions Psychiatric disorders, particularly alcohol use disorders, are common in the college-aged population. Although treatment rates varied across disorders, overall fewer than 25% of individuals with a mental disorder sought treatment in the year prior to the survey. These findings underscore the importance of treatment and prevention interventions among college-aged individuals.

Can’t we just put ‘em all on Prozac and teach ‘em algebra, instead?

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