I think this may be a sign that there’s something wrong with the way schools teach
Okay, I’ve seen this floating around my dash a few times and I’m currently scouring the internet to find the peer reviewed paper or meta-analysis that this has come from, but in all honesty it just seems to be a random, impressive sounding soundbite that Robert Leahy randomly came up with. Now, if someone can find me the study where Dr. Leahy managed to compare anxiety scores of high school students with a set of reliable and valid scores of 1950’s patients I will be more than happy to take a step back and say ‘yes, he was right.’
But lets think critically for a second:
Do not get me wrong - there is an apparent issue with the education system in the US, there is no denying that. The anxiety levels are far too high, the pressure is a lot. But the real problem I take here is the comparison with 1950’s psychiatric institutions.
Yes, there is peer pressure, bullying, exam pressure, discrimination and a whole host of things that young people - going through puberty - have to deal with. It’s not ideal, in the slightest, but have you any idea what psychiatric institutions were like in the 1950’s?
Firstly, to be committed to a psychiatric institution you probably suffered from a mental illness to begin with. That’s not going to do wonders for your anxiety levels, especially if it’s an anxiety disorder…. or a paranoid psychotic disorder. These are clinically pathological levels of anxiety to begin with… which resulted in hospitalisation.
Now, even without the obvious presence of mental illness or other disability, or even the fact that these people were detained, frequently against their will, in an unfamiliar environment, psychiatric institutions of the 1950’s were not like they are today. Psychosurgery was still allowed, Thorazine had literally only just been synthesised and it was only really introduced in 1955. The shift towards psychopharmacology, as opposed to psychosurgery, was happening during this time. And while Thorazine was a huge step forward it wasn’t exactly always a pleasant experience.
In Britain the first mental health act didn’t come into effect until 1959. In America JFK signed a Mental Health Study Act to reform the mental health system because of his personal experience - his sister had undergone a frontal lobotomy. It wasn’t until 1963 that he asked for new Mental Health legislation because of the incredibly harsh conditions that the patients were living in.
And even then, regardless of the state of the mental health system in the 1950’s, even now - in the modern day - psychiatric hospitals aren’t always pleasant places. I have worked with people who suffer flash backs and PTSD symptoms, on top of their other mental health issues, because of their time spent inpatient.
I’m sorry, school sucks, yes, the education system needs a total overhaul. But I will not believe that it is at all comparable to a 1950’s psychiatric hospital until someone shows me reliable peer-reviewed data.