Hurricane Hyperactivity: Hyperactive minds flooding classrooms

Young adults, now more than ever, are experiencing over-active minds.

Tiffany Robinson from Youth Programs, Community Learning & Engagement at Crisis Center, points out the impact of today’s information revolution.

“The great deal of emphasis on thinking and taking in large quantities of information, be it through media, social media, news, relationships, jobs, hobbies, it can be overwhelming and difficult to process,” says Robinson. “Ultimately impossible.”

She uses meditation and holistic practices to teach people how to slow down hyperactive minds.

In 2003, Anxiety Disorders Association of Canada found a study by the World Health Organization. Harvard School of Public Health and the World Bank26 has predicted that by year 2020, anxiety disorders will rank as the second highest source of disability amongst neuro-psychiatric conditions, behind unipolar major depression, and ahead of schizophrenia, alcohol use, dementia and drug use.

It’s 2017, and we live with an ADHD generation well on its way to hitting the targeted prediction — if not sooner. Post-secondary students are facing hard times. They try to be everywhere at once, bombarded by digital distractions, parental, social and economical pressures.

From The AUCCCD Annual Survey and Report Overview. “The Association for University and College Counseling Center Directors (AUCCCD) is an international organization comprised of universities and colleges from the United States and its territories, Armenia, Australia, Canada, China, Dominica, France, Japan, Oman, Qatar, St. Kitts and Nevis, United Arab Emirates, and United Kingdom.”

The AUCCCD surveyed 6.3 million students, through the 529 counselling center directors at institutions represented in this survey. According to the AUCCCD survey, “On average, 26.5 per cent of students seeking services take psychotropic medications.” And, “Anxiety continues to be the most predominant and increasing concern among college students (50.6 per cent), followed by depression (41.2 per cent), relationship concerns (34.4 per cent), suicidal ideation (20.5 per cent), self-injury (14.2 per cent),  and alcohol abuse (9.5 per cent).”

The rise of mental health issues among young adults is a social responsibility. With mental illnesses such as anxiety, depression, ADD/ADHD, and stress disorders, students are emotionally unstable.

The future is being molded by scattered minds. Dr. Gabor Mate, in his book Scattered: How Attention Deficit Disorder Originates and What You Can Do About It, defines a scattered minded being as “something has to give, but the ADD personality has trouble letting go of anything. Unlike the juggler, he cannot stop the performance.”

From The AUCCCD Annual Survey and Report Overview.

Studies have shown that prescribed medicines such as Ritalin, used to treat attention deficit disorder (ADD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), produce side effects that counteract the disorder by inducing more anxiety.

Listed on Ritalin’s website are side effects that include “nervousness, agitation, anxiety, insomnia, stomach pain, and, loss of appetite” and others. “People with anxiety disorders are voracious consumers of health care services, including visits to primary care physicians, and specialists, and diagnostic testing, ambulance and emergency room services,” stated a report by the Anxiety Disorders Association of Canada.

Versaevel, L. Nicole, “Canadian Post-Secondary Students, Stress, and Academic Performance – A Socio-Ecological Approach” (2014). “Data from the spring 2013 National College Health Assessment (NCHA) was utilized in study one and two. This dataset is comprised of 34,039 students from 34 self-selected Canadian postsecondary institutions who took part in the NCHA survey.”

ADHD is the largest mental condition with an academic impact. Close to it is depression and anxiety. In the AUCCCD survey, when asked about on-campus services offered”, ADHD and learning disabilities testing ranked at the bottom.

From The AUCCCD Annual Survey and Report Overview.

For many years, people suffering from mental health issues have been conditioned to seek private care, take drugs, or brushed problems under the rug because they don’t present as physical conditions. Some find ways to a healthy, balanced lifestyle, but many feel stuck with their struggles, unsure how to help themselves. Walking away from neuropsychological conditions only makes things worse.

Karen Chan in and article the Torontoist titled “What Toronto Colleges and Universities Are Doing to Help Students’ Mental Health,” writes, “Awareness about the mental health challenges students face is growing on campuses.” She reports that institutions are only now focusing on mindfulness, meditation, nutrition and creative outlets for responding to stress.

Kwantlen Polytechnic University has a free monthly e-zine for KPU students promoting healthy bodies and minds, called Student Health 101. It also has started organizing monthly workshops about body, spirit, mind, health and nutrition.

Emily Krueckl, 22, is a student in KPU’s Interior Design program. Krueckl’s anxiety increases when she has to rush through important things. As a student, she feels having to categorize what’s more important between her social, personal, and career objective is “sometimes it’s a little bit skewed depending on exterior things like real life, and my program.” Krueckl avoids using any help facilities or clubs at school for distress. She doesn’t choose to dealing with the faculty of Kwantlen based on previous experiences, but would be open to a program coordinated by students.

Krueckl copes with her anxiety and academic struggles by trying to make more time for herself.

“I don’t have time to join clubs, but if I did have time, it would be nice to have options that interested me.” she says.

On Oct. 11, Kwantlen hosted a workshop “Skillfully Responding to Stress Workshop.” One of those involved was Tiffany Robinson, from the Crisis Center.

Robinson has a background in psychology as an undergraduate, and worked at a retreat centre called Hollyhock on the West Coast while travelling. Unsure of what she wanted to pursue, Robinson worked there for two seasons in an effort to learn more about holistic ways to support mental health and healing. At Hollyhock, Robinson found her inspiration through meditation.

“I was so inspired by it,” says Robinson. “I felt it offered information on self-awareness, and how to become more self-responsible in managing and understanding emotions.” As a result, it became the focus her graduate studies. She spent five years practicing and training to become a teacher in meditation and mindfulness.

Robinson’s spiritual approach on mental health, and holistic healing,  guided her workshop on “Skillfully Responding to Stress.” Twenty-five students had signed up to attend the workshop, but only five students showed up. The workshop explored tools for being an active listener, helpful stress responses and mindfulness techniques, such as “STOP.”

“STOP” is an acronym for Stop, Take a breathe, Observe yourself and situation, Proceed thoughtfully.

Katrina Walton, 23, a psychology student at KPU,  was one of those who attended. “There’s always room to learn more. Turns out there’s a lot I’ve forgotten,” she said. As a third-year psychology student, remembering to breathe sounded like the most beneficial information she’d heard all semester long.

Robinson closed her presentation by giving alternative options for students to reach out for help with mental health issues.

Caitlin McCutchen is KPU’s Student Health 101 coordinator, and Vice President of Student External Affairs. Her aim is to raise awareness, to give training and educate students to help each other. Student Health 101 also wants to reduce the stigma around mental health.

“People often think having mental health are not capable of doing things, or people will look down on them for not talking about it,”  says McCutchen. “If you’re saying, ‘Oh, my anxieties really bad today’, people are like, ‘It’s not that bad just get over it,’ and you hear that so often. It’s that type of stigma where mental illnesses aren’t real illnesses, when they are in fact illnesses.”

It’s the first time the KSA has launched a campaign to raise awareness on mental health.

McCutchen believes offering accessible services on campus is beneficial because students spend most their time there. She’s also mindful of the negative stigma attached to going and seeing a counsellor about these conditions. By making mental health more of a conversation “students are more likely seek out those services,” says McCutchen.

Hyperactivity is a result of unmediated mental illnesses such as anxiety and ADD/ADHD. As more and more young adults suffer from mental illnesses, education systems have to make space for their student’s health.

“Anxiety disorders account for the largest percentage (31.8 per cent) of the total costs of all mental disorders, due largely to their high prevalence, young age of onset, and large effects on economic productivity,” says in a report by Anxiety Disorders Association Of Canada.

These days, students are being more proactive and collaborating with holistic health specialists to help by learning how to reduce stress. Attending workshops for mental health, reading newsletters, meditating, and getting involved helps slow down the hyperactive mind. Over time, people with mental illnesses will no longer feel they have no solution. Being open minded to spiritual practices designed in ancient times, such as meditation and mindfulness, is anything but an economic burden. Stated in ADAOC’s report, “More than half of the costs due to anxiety disorders are those associated with repeated and ineffectual use of health care services.”

Young adults need to “create space for stillness,” says Richardson, “and nurturing one’s internal well-being instead of constantly being in a state of doing, thinking, and trying to achieve things.”

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