« Midtown Global Market | Main | Kenwood »

Social Design of College

There were many social design issues that I considered. There are so many problems in our society and so much room for improvement in how we construct our designed environment that it was hard to pick one topic; education, homelessness, clean water, adequate housing, public transportation, malnutrition, social awareness…. While all of these and many more topics are very important and must be addressed and studied and understood and looked at, they may not feel that pressing to the average college student. However, one issue that all college students should be aware of because it can most directly affect them is the design of college and how it relates to mental health.

College is a place where extremes are the norm. It is expected that there will be lots of studying and homework, that students will pull all-nighters as a regular part of their schedule, that they will find a way to deal with the new pressures and expectations of living away from home. The college/university environment is designed to test students’ abilities and push them to the limits. It is designed to see how much they can do, not just academically, but in other aspects of their lives as well. There are new temptations and new expectations, and often contradictory messages are received. For any of these and any other combination of reasons, many college students have trouble coping.

Though there are now many more resources available to students to help them deal with a range of issues that arise in this environment of new experiences and challenge, many students still do not seek the help they need. Depression and other mental health issues are still widely viewed as something that should not be talked about, though it is clearly an issue that many students face. According to a survey by the American College Health Association, about 50% of college students feel depression at some point during the year and 21% reported they “seriously considered suicide? one or more times during the past year. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among college students. These are very serious and scary statistics and though the awareness of this phenomenon is increasing and colleges and universities across the country now have counselors and programs in place to help students, there are still many aspects of the design of colleges that contribute to the problem.

Perhaps it is inherent in the design of colleges. College is a place and time for people to become independent, responsible, and figure out who they are and where they fit in. The old norms and standards of living at home are left behind in order to explore new territory and the future. But many times this means students are alone or feel that they are isolated. They have to figure it out on their own, and they are not around people who know them well enough to ask the right questions and push for the truth and really know when something is wrong. Instead they are isolated and don’t know how and don’t want to get help. This is the attitude that must be changed. It is okay to ask for help.