DYSTOPIA–Mental-health problems among students and faculty are increasing nationwide, and Dystopia College is no exception, according to a campus counselor.
“Various forms of insanity” are definitely on the rise at Dystopia, said Dr. Loba Ptomei, a psychologist and licensed counselor who serves as director of mental-health services at the college’s Mal Hayes Wellness Center.
She and her staff work with students and faculty–and the occasional college staff member, though members of the campus community in non-academic rules tend to be “a bit more stable”–presenting a range of mental-health disorders, from the “relatively routine,” such as students suffering from test anxiety and faculty members depressed about their jobs, to the “total bat-shit craziness” of a student claiming to have been sexually assaulted by extraterrestrials behind the Dusty Booker Library.
The most common problems among both students and faculty are various forms of anxiety and depression, ranging in severity from “a bit of jitteriness” to the danger of “possible self-harm.” Ptomei blamed the “increasing complexity of today’s world,” which is “just too much” for some people, especially “the kind of people who end up at Dystopia,” from the increase in anxiety cases. “I mean, just being at Dystopia makes you a little anxious about your future, doesn’t it?” She said she suspects that the opening of the new Rocket Fuel Coffee Casa adjacent to campus a couple of years ago has also contributed to some of the milder cases of anxiety.
As for depression, it often strikes students who fall behind on their work for any number of reasons, from illness to procrastination to academic incompetence to just “plain old lazy-ass sloth” and then get overwhelmed by “the depth of the shit in which they find themselves.” The death of a loved one, an incident of campus violence, and even the onset of winter can also contribute to the development of depression.
Whereas anxiety is perhaps the more common disorder among students, depression appears to be more widespread among faculty members, who often become depressed because “they are overworked and underpaid in dead-end jobs at a barely mediocre college in a state where the education system is broken beyond repair.”
“When you put someone that kind of position,” she said, and then add “disrespectful, incompetent, entitled students to the mix,” it’s actually “hard to think of a reason for not getting depressed.” In fact, as a result of dealing with their frustrations day in and day out, Ptomei said, she has had to begin an increased regimen of self-medication.
Besides students who can’t sit still or focus on anything except their phones for more than three seconds and faculty who can barely drag themselves out of bed to face the world again every morning, the college’s counselors see “the full spectrum” of mental health issues. For example, Ptomei herself is currently working with one faculty member who has “suicidal tendencies” and another who is “having some problems with anger management.”
She has also worked with a student traumatized by a false allegation of terrorism and another who is “having a little trouble distinguishing his own personality” from that of the fictional character he portrays. “That albatross role has been a real noose around his neck in some ways,” she said. “Oh, and then there’s the witch who is upset with the way people stereotype her.”
Recently, she says she has received calls of “concern” about members of the campus community “running around trying to catch imaginary creatures with funny-sounding names.” She said she isn’t especially worried however and considers this “just a bit of good, clean escapism.” She said she doesn’t consider it a problem unless it becomes an obsession that keeps the game-player from completing more essential tasks.
“Wait. Holy shit, I think we have an epidemic on our hands.”
T. Allen Culpepper