Is a smart brain a healthy mind?



Lisa N. Viers, Opinion Editor

It is a well-known fact that all students at Case Western Reserve University are of a high intellectual caliber. This is shown not only by our acceptance into this university, but also our success here. Yes, some of us excel more than others, and a few of us may have needed to use pass-fail as a last resort to keep our precious GPA above a 3.0, but we’re all above-average in the smarts department.

However, being smart doesn’t just apply to academics, nor does it imply emotional stability. Some of the world’s greatest minds have suffered from less-than-ideally functioning brains: from “Infinite Jest” author David Foster Wallace, who suffered from depression, to brilliant—and paranoid schizophrenic—mathematician John Nash.

In an environment where academic prowess is so highly prized, we sometimes forget that there is more in a person’s brain than information. Last week, The Observer reported on The Healthy Minds Study, a mental health survey emailed out to 8000 random CWRU students.

According to the email sent out by Vice President for Student Affairs Glenn Nicholls, the survey purports to be gathering information “that can be used to think about strategies for improving the emotional health and wellbeing of students at CWRU and other colleges around the country.”

The survey does an adequate job of asking about things like drug and alcohol use, and it also asks about how you and your peers are affected by these substances—a fairly probing question for a survey. It continues on with inquiring about your stress levels and knowledge about available health services on campus.

While it is nice that a small part of the survey dedicates itself to asking how aware students are of things like University Counseling Services (UCS), nothing is actually being done to promote these services on campus.

Since arriving here at CWRU in 2009, I have never seen any material around campus advertising UCS. Students may have no idea where to go when they’re feeling stressed or upset, yet they are constantly being bombarded with information about groups and activities. Perhaps if we were to make counseling services more visible to students, they would be more likely to use them.

There is a certain stigma that comes with saying you are in counseling or therapy. People may assume there is something wrong with you—that you’re depressed or unstable. It’s not exactly first-date material, so-to-speak. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

Increasing awareness about mental wellness services on campus may encourage more students to see what help is available to them. It is easy to assume that going to counseling is only necessary if you have a “serious” problem, like depression or debilitating anxiety. What most members of the campus community may not know is that counseling can be helpful for things as common as stress or social awkwardness—things we’ve all experienced here at some point.

I appreciate the thought behind sending out The Healthy Minds Survey, but rather than simply gathering information about how students are feeling through an impersonal poll, perhaps we should be encouraging them to talk to someone.

Lisa N. Viers