Colleges can help address students’ ‘sense of hopelessness’

Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health professors David Williams and Vikram Patel recently spoke to WGBH for the series “Stressed and Depressed on Campus.”

For students of color, racial discrimination can have harmful physical and mental effects starting in elementary school, said Williams, Florence Sprague Norman and Laura Smart Norman Professor of Public Health and chair, Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, in part 1 of the series on November 18, 2019.

“High levels of fear, high levels of threat, high levels of hopelessness, low-perceived economic opportunity for them and uncertainty about the future,” he said. “That’s a recipe for mental health challenges.”

The current social and political climate can give college students a sense of hopelessness, said Patel, professor in the professor in the Department of Global Health and Population, in part 3 of the series on November 20. He recommends that colleges work to restore students’ sense of purpose.

“Colleges cannot only be places where we churn out doctors, engineers, lawyers to then look for jobs in the future economy of this planet, but actually young people who can be agents of change to address the pressing social problems that affect us,” he said.

Read part 1: ‘The Pressures On Kids — They’re Born Into It’

Read part 3: Struggling With Perceived Isolation, Many First-Gen College Students Face Mental Health Problems