Believing is more than seeing

It seems like every time I turn on the television, log-on to social media or check a news application on my phone, there is another breaking news story about something violent that has happened at home or overseas.

As someone who plans to have a career in journalism, I am well versed with the practice of, “if it bleeds, it leads,” used by news media.

But, to the average American, these images of violence create a skewed picture of the world that is reinforced every time a news outlet runs a story containing violent-content.

Because of this, many feel that the world is more dangerous than it actually is.

A Gallup poll published in 2015, showed that 70 percent of Americans believe that the crime rate is higher than it was the year before. This has been the trend since the company started giving the violence perception poll in 1989.

wzvtbhtlxkgekbwdjg_fwwThe poll showed that 60 percent of Americans also reported believing that violent crime is a “very serious” problem; while at the same time, only 25 percent reported that they or someone in their household fell victim to a crime, six percent or less, being violent.

Data from The Pew Research Center also indicated that, since the early 2000s, American’s have reported that every year, they feel the crime rate has increased since the year prior.

These, along with various other sets of data, show that the reality is that, even though a majority of Americans feel as though the crime rates are increasing, government data shows that the rates have been on a—nearly—constant decline since the early 90.

Having the ability to separate oneself from the “current events” and see the bigger picture, is key to not falling subject to, what the late Media Effect researcher, George Gerbner, called the “Mean World Syndrome.”

Gerbner used this term to describe how violent content in mass media leads viewers to believe that society is much more dangerous than it actually is.  He also concluded that because of this constant exposure, people are primed to think violence is a regular part of life.

Making the effort to use statistics, rather than a heuristic—a shortcut for thinking—to develop one’s world-view is also essential, according to psychologists, Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman.

Tversky and Kahneman explained the reason behind the gap between the public’s perceptions of violent crime and reality, to be due to something they coined an “availability heuristic.”

Similar to Gerbner, Tversky and Kahneman stated that if someone regularly engages in media that displays violent content, they are likely to assume that the world parallels this.

With the news being easily accessible through multiple mediums, and in light of the recent terrorist attacks and shootings, it is easy to see why many American’s are living in fear.

Although the media portrays society to be increasingly violent, it is important to recognize that various data, like that from ourworldindata.org, shows that the reality is just the opposite.

It is actually the safest time to be alive in human history.

 

College students obsessed with success, too stressed to obtain it

Countless studies show that there is currently a mental health epidemic facing college students across the nation.

A survey conducted by the American College Counseling Association, or ACCA, found that more than half of college counseling visitors have save psychological problems, an increase of 13 percent in two years.

Parallel to other national college mental health data, the survey also concluded that anxiety and depression, in that order, are the most common health diagnoses among college students.

According to the Center for Disease Control, suicide is the number 2 leading cause of death among those ages 15-24 and that the suicide rate among adolescents and young adults has increased “modestly but steadily” since 2007.

Over the past two decades, several universities across America have experienced what psychologists refer to as “suicide clusters,” which is defined as multiple deaths in close succession and proximity.

In 2015, Tulane University lost four students to suicide and Appalachian State lost three.

Penn State had six students commit suicide over a 13-month stretch from 2014-2015.

From 2003-2004, 5 New York University (NYU) students leapt to their death. Cornell lost six students to suicide from 2009-2010.

And according to Kelsie Miller, a Counseling Outreach Coordinator for the Students Helping Others Reach Excellence (SHORE) program on Coastal’s Campus who spoke with Chanticleer reporter, Genelle Thompson, CCU has also seen its share of student suicides over the last 5 years.

With a majority of these suicide clusters happening at top-ranked schools, it is easy to speculate that the infamous high-stress, hyper-achieving environment that many ivy-league schools are known for is linked in some way.

Director of Counseling and Psychological Services for the Jed Foundation, a non-profit organization geared towards promoting emotional health and preventing suicide, and the Associate Director of Gannett Health Services at Cornell University Gregory T. Eells told HuffPost Live, that this could be due to something he calls “social perfection.”

Eells explained that because today’s younger generation are so attuned to social media, many feel the need to appear perfect across various platforms, which can potentially be as damaging to the person posting the image as it is to the people engaging with it.

“Social perfection can be a very toxic concept because it’s something that we internalize,” said Eells. “It’s not as if you really think I have to be perfect. It’s that I think that you think I have to be perfect.”

He explained that striving to be perfect causes one to miss out on the chance to improve oneself through recognizing personal imperfections.

“Part of being human is that we all make mistakes,” said Eells. “We really can develop a growth mindset, which is when there are those setbacks, they’re opportunities for growth. They don’t mean you’re a failure, they don’t mean that you’ve done something wrong. They’re an opportunity to learn and develop some sense of resilience and develop some adaptability.”

This feeling of a need to achieve perfection that many college student’s currently face has created a shift in the way young adults handle conflict and cope with challenges.

Counselors at various colleges across the nation have reported noticing this change and have concluded that many college students no longer know how to fail.

Based on an article published in Counseling Today, a publication of the American Counseling Association, helicopter parenting is partly to blame.

This style of parenting describes a parent, or parents, who have a “helicopter-like tendency to hover over children and swoop in to rescue them at the first sign of trouble.” This parenting style ultimately prevents children from developing “independence and resiliency,” thereby hindering them both emotionally and academically, later in life.

A combination of being raised by overprotective parents and being surrounded by culture of hyper-achievement, there is no mystery why mental illness and suicide rates among adolescents and young adults are on a constant incline.

The sad reality is that national data on campus suicide and depression show that one in four adults experience mental illness in a given year, two-thirds of students who are struggling do no seek help or treatment and more teenagers and young adults die from suicide than from all other mental illnesses combined.

Because of the prevalence of these issues among college students, it is important for their peers, as well as faculty and staff, to know the facts, warning signs and how to help.

Coastal’s Counseling Services provide several different outlets to aid with mental illness and suicide prevention, but students must take the first step to get help.

October is suicide prevention month, so be sure to be aware of the facts and keep an eye out for awareness events hosted by COAST, the Counseling Outreach Advocacy Student Team and Counseling Services.