The mental health crisis in youth should not lead to lowering of admission requirements in higher education
If GPA requirements for students are lowered, their dream could turn into a nightmare instead of a dream educations.
It’s finals time, and students feel the nervous energy. Do you remember the feeling? Did I take the right notes? What did the book say about …, again ? What if I forget everything at the exam table? I hope they will not ask me about…
Young people in Denmark and in many other countries are suffering mentally. Especially during finals time, we hear about young people having difficulty coping. One study after another shows that young people suffer from anxiety and depression. And, indeed, something needs to be done about that.
But the answer is not to lower the requirements for higher education. It is understandable that the generation of power, that coincides in age with the parent generation of students, wants to help. But imagine how these young people will feel in an education they do not have the skills to follow let alone complete – not to mention how they will fair in a workplace after graduating.
“I was certainly not disappointed that my opportunity to end up as chief economist was not in the cards.
I would like to be operated on by a surgeon who knows the anatomy of the body before he puts his scalpel in me, I would like the anesthesiologist to easily calculate my anesthesia or pain relief so that I do not wake up in the middle of surgery. I would like to move in a public space where bridges, buildings and mobile masts stand as they should when it is a bit windy thanks to engineering calculations. And I would like to read articles in the newspaper edited by people who know Danish grammar and can spell most words.
Does this mean that there are young people who do not get into their dream education?
Yes, it does sometimes – and that’s the way it should be. Denmark is a fantastic country where anyone who wants it can get an education. But we do the young people a disservice if we tell them that they can become just anything they want – because only few can.
I graduated my one-year HH with a no-pass grade in accounting – but I was certainly not disappointed that my opportunity to end up as chief economist was not in the cards. On the other hand, I would have liked to have studied rhetoric, but my grade point average was not high enough for that. Denmark is a country that is known for not distinguishing between high and low – a country where the nurse assistant is worth as much as the doctor, where the carpenter can contribute something different than the architect.
Fortunately, there is a difference in competencies – and it is ultimately for the benefit of society, the individual citizen, and those whose grade point average has defined what education they could apply for.
Young people’s mental well-being is a problem that requires solutions and great focus. But even if it seems like a quick solution to young people’s mental health issues to lower the admission requirements for certain educations, it is a short-term solution. The dream could very well turn out to be a nightmare – for them and for society.
Ukrainian men fight for their women – why are Afghan men not doing the same?
Afghan women and Ukrainian men are willing to risk their lives for freedom.
They get their women and children on trains and wave their goodbyes. Then take up arms, for many for the first time in their lives. Or they make sure that wives, mothers, and sisters are safe in shelters deep underground, while heading out to fight against a brutal supremacy.
When journalists ask Ukrainian soldiers what they are fighting for, they reply “peace” and “the future of my children.”
Most of us have been deeply touched by the willingness of Ukrainians to fight for the freedom the country has only known since 1991, when they gained their independence. That is about as long as most of Afghanistan´s women experienced freedom from the oppressing cavemen of Taliban.
“It’s like being in a room that’s too small and too dark,” a young Afghan woman told a journalist on the New York Times podcast The Daily.
Yesterday, the Afghan girls were supposed to be back in schools after being sentenced to months of household chores indoors. The first thing the Taliban did when they took power in August last year, of course, was to cut off girls from education.
The girls’ dreams turned out to be just that – dreams. Because when the excited, happy, giddy girls showed up at their schools, they were sent home again if they went to a higher grade level than 6th grade. BBC World News shows pictures of covered girls with tearstained cheeks collapsing in anguish and others with an expressionless gaze.
The misogyny is devastatingly heartbreaking! Men were waving the girls biggest dreams in front of them, letting them rejoice, letting them get their classrooms ready, wiping chairs and school desks off – and then telling them that they can not get the education they have been looking forward to.
Far from all girls have the opportunity to participate in online learning. But those who do, study foreign languages, art, literature, physics, and chemistry. Some go to the bookstore and buy books, devouring as much learning as they can at home. Others draw, do dance groups with girlfriends, meet secretly.
In short – the girls have a will to fight, even if it is deadly dangerous if discovered that they spend their time on something other than domestic chores, which the Taliban believes is a woman’s ultimate purpose in life.
But the men in Afghanistan underestimate their girls and women if they think they are content with doing the dishes, cleaning, cooking, and give birth. Men have always underestimated women. And women have always had to do the dishes, clean, cook, and give birth – while completing an education.
This generation of Afghan women has access to the Internet – and thus to a knowledge of how women and girls in other parts of the world live. I wonder if they marvel at how men in Ukraine are willing to sacrifice their lives in the fight for their women and girls freedom.
Imagine what Afghanistan would look like, how the country and its citizens could flourish, if the Afghan men put their foot down and went against the Taliban brutality that has forced itself into power in the country. Imagine if the girls were allowed to believe in a future where they can live out their dreams and immense potential!
But since it does not seem to be the case that Afghan men want to fight for their women’s right to a free and peaceful life, like the Ukrainian men are willing to do, Afghan girls and women must fight for themselves. It should not have to be like that, but as I already said, there is nothing new in women having to fight for their rights without the aid of men.
I hope that Afghan women have as much fighting spirit as the Ukrainian men, since Afghan men have proven to be cowards.
Identity politics: The Republican Party is targeting our children
Florida´s new law will ban schools from talking about gender identity. But why don´t we allow our kids to be who they are without feeling we have a right to judge?
The state of Florida is known for sun, sea, retirees, and Cubans.
Now, the state is introducing of a “Don´t Say Gay”-law which would ban any talk of LGBTQIA+ people, sexual orientation, and gender identity in schools.
Have we learned nothing?
I hate to say it, but even if you close your eyes to something and bury your head in the sand, what you try to not see is still there. If we deny young people an opportunity to share their thoughts, it will have a catastrophic effect on mental health for these vulnerable young people.
All young people need to have an opportunity to talk about and explore their identity. My own teenage daughter is one of them. At her school, there is a Rainbow Club every Thursday after school.
For a long time, my daughter thought she was ace, (asexual). She wore the purple flag, wore purple clothes with sequins on the jacket. I had a feeling it was rooted on the fact that she was not yet ready to talk about the topics that her tween friends were starting to talk about. But I kept that assumption to myself. Instead, we talked about identity and about finding out who you are.
Recently, our daughter told us she is no longer an ace. She now thinks boys are rather interesting. She still attends Rainbow Club, because of the atmosphere and because many of her friends go there.
Why can´t our kids be who they are without us feeling we have a right to judge? And why can we not be open to the fact that their identity is fluid, and that we just have to hang on and follow along on the sidelines? Why is it more important to be able to understand their identity than to make them feel accepted?
It may come as a surprise that Florida is bringing a law like this up when a 2021 Gallup poll shows that 70 percent. of all Americans are in favor of gay marriage.
But the governor of the sunny crocodile state has big political ambitions, and the political climate is such that members of The Republican Party is trying to see who can have the most extreme mindset. Never mind the LGBTQIA+ casualties when trying to bring the discourse of identity back to the 1950s.
A few months ago, I spoke with a Danish friend who lives with her wife and their two daughters in a state in the middle of the United States. »Pearl, Triangle and Square. I don´t understand! Are they dressing up, are they men or women !?”, she asked.
“I had no idea what some of the abbreviations stood for and I did not understand why it was so important. Time and again, I had to say, “Hey, I’m on your team, don´t direct your frustration at me” to my daughter.
“Does it matter?” I replied.
“They are trying to figure themselves out and this way frankly seem pretty harmless to me. Isn´t it amazing the way they are able to talk about identity in a way our generation never was?”
Even for my friend, who, is in the LGBTQIA+ community, it’s hard to understand the identity markers this generation of youth use. As humans, we are weary, maybe even resistant when we encounter something other, we do not understand.
That’s how I felt myself. I still regularly make “mistakes” and then reap a glimpse of contempt from my daughter, who makes me understand that I have messed up. I had no idea what some of the abbreviations stood for and I did not understand why it was so important. Time and again and again I had to say, “Hey, I’m on your team, don´t direct your frustration at med” to my daughter.
But this is important for young people. And it’s deeply personal. For them, it’s about many things, but it’s also about them having a need to see that we as adults respect them as individuals.
We do not have to understand to respect. Our generation does not have to stifle young people’s need to talk about and find their identity – it is not a threat to us. In fact, it is not about us at all.
Children and young people must be met with openness. All children deserve love, empathy, respect, and protection – even if they do not fit into a box we understand. Everything else is heartless.
And yes, it is important what’s going on in Florida. Just like it is important to know that the state of Texas has introduced abortion rules that make it virtually impossible for a woman to terminate her pregnancy.
Because when you little by little systematically deprive citizens of their rights, the strategy starts with minorities. It makes sense: The likelihood of the surrounding society, those with the privileges, likely won´t react.
But even if a law that deprives a group of people of their rights does not affect us personally, we must respond. Because it’s the right thing to do – and because maybe next time it’s our turn to lose a right.
Forget “hygge” as international branding – Denmark’s success is “togetherness”
The reason why Denmark can lift covid restrictions is because the population work together and believe in science.
All eyes are again on Denmark.
Yet again, the country is a frontrunner when it comes to handling the Corona virus. The consequences of the Omikron variant was apparently not as dire as the health authorities feared.
Now, some restrictions are lifted. Cultural venues can reopen, children are back in schools, the hospitalizations are at a manageable level.
All of this happened, because the population have done their part. Each individual Dane has made sensible corona choices. The choices may not always have been easy to make, but they have meant that society as a whole is moving towards greater freedom – and that benefits everyone.
In the United States, we see infection rates like never before. Between 700,000 and 1 million. pr. day. Many never become part of the statistics – because they do not want to be registered, or because they cannot get a test until next week due to lack of testing capacity. 150,000 are hospitalized with Covid, the highest number at any time during the pandemic.
The American population is divided. While Biden and his team are trying to appeal to the public to get vaccinated, many people have a skepticism against the state weighing in on their personal lives. In their pursuit of political gain, many Republican state governors strongly oppose health officials’ recommendations.
“I am proud of the way,
Denmark has handled
the last two years.
Politicians react based on
advice from health and science professional,
and everyone has access to vaccines.”
We have been living with Covid for two years now. Every society in the world, every single citizen’s everyday life, every single family has had to deal with the disease and its consequences.
Personally, I am emotionally exhausted. Even though I am in a privileged situation where I and my children have access to vaccines. I’m honestly so tired of how familiar the names Brostrøm and Fauci sound.
The constant announcements from the authorities, new mutations, restrictions, changes in behavior, cancellations of social events, changes in the children’s everyday lives – it all takes my breath away. Add to that a concern for my children’s mental health and their memory of a childhood during a pandemic.
And then there are the concerns for my neighbors, for the people of the world and the societal consequences we see around the world in the form of riots, empty shelves in grocery stores, the exploitation from dark totalitarian powers now that the attention is directed away from their abuses.
I am far from the only one who is exhausted over constantly dealing with topics of illness, fear of death and a fear of political instability. Every day, I hear from friends, neighbors or the media that people suffer from “covid- fatique ” because of the constant worries.
“Do you want to give a lecture about Denmark and hygge,” my former Professor colleague asked when she invited me to come to the University of Washington to give a guest lecturer in the class she was teaching in Scandinavian culture.
“No, I don´t want to do that,” I replied.
“But I would like to talk about what it is that makes the Danish population stand together, how there is a general trust in the authorities, and why the model of society works in a way that makes the country so well-functioning.”
So, I did – and while the students asked me to elaborate on the way the country works, I realized there are things I miss about my old country.
When I see how Denmark has handled the last two years, I am proud. Politicians are reacting based on advice from health and science professionals, and everyone has access to vaccines. Most importantly, the people stand together and support the decisions that are being implemented – even when they do not agree politically.
The rest of the world could learn a lot from that attitude.
For få dage siden begik en 12-årig dreng selvmord på min datters skole. Og ja, det sker, at helt unge begår selvmord – også oftere end mange af os måske går rundt og tror. Det skal der fokus på – så vi kan gøre noget ved det.
“Mom, we’re in the lockdown. An ambulance is on site and the police are inspecting our lockers.“
A few days ago, a 12-year-old boy committed suicide at my daughter’s school. Yes, children do commit suicide – more often than we think. We need to talk about that – so we can do something about it.
Children commit suicide. More often than many of us might think.
Just writing this makes everything in my gut wrench. My stomach tightens, I feel despair, anxiety and fear.
The other day we received a brief email from my daughter’s school. “There is a health-related situation at your child´s school at the moment.” This cryptic message made my alarm clock go off, and I texted a quick message to my daughter, “Are you okay? Should I come and pick you up?”
“I’m ok. People say it was a heart failure caused by an overdose, but teachers aren´t saying anyting,” my daughter replied via text message.
And then my panic set in, but I couldn´t show her that. “Don t listen to rumors,” I wrote after she told me that police was systematically going through students’ lockers.
»We know nothing, waiting for more info. I’m with friends and am ok,” my levelled headed daughter texted me. She was able to stay calmer than her mother.
That evening we received a message that a student had passed away at her middle school. Afterwards, the rumors flourished among the students. He was suffocated, it was an overdose, could it be xxx or xxx?
The next day we received a message that the student had passed away as a result of suicide.
He was 12 years old. My daughter told me, everyone called him Prince, because he was always so well dressed. He was in “the gifted program” for highly intelligent children, joked with everyone, had many friends and was well-liked. In other words, he was not a student who would normally be seen as exposed due to bullying, lack of intellect, physical characteristics, etc.
That same week, all students at the middle school had undergone a program they call SOS – Signs Of Suicide, which focuses on seeing signs in young people at risk of suicide and informing them where they can get help. And that same week, the boy and my daughter attended a Rainbow Meeting, a meeting for LGTBQIA + people.
The next day, he committed suicide in one of the school toilets. Now all the hooks on the inside of the school stalls in the bathroom have been removed.
The numbers of suicides in this age group in Denmark and in the USA are comparable. Fortunately, suicides in this group are rare, however, a person under 13 commits suicide every five days in the United States. In Denmark, two to three young people under the age of 15 commit suicide every year. Over 75% in the age group are boys.
All weekend, my daughter has been watching baking shows and reading Harry Potter. I read her behavior as a need to reach back to childhood. On Monday, I had to pick up my 11-year-old son because he had broken down in tears in his classroom. His teacher and the school principal cried at the morning meeting and it all became too overwhelming for my son. As a fifth grade teacher, my son’s teacher taught the boy in her classroom two years ago.
We have contacted our family therapist, signed up for a workshop for survivors and are trying to do what we can to tell our children that we are here for them. But it’s hard not to let my own “shit” scarred inner self run wild. My anxiety cannot take president over the role I have to put at the top as a mother of two children.
“It’s as if I’ve been introduced to an adult world from one day to the next. Yesterday I was a big kid, today I have to deal with a world I am not ready for,” my daughter told me.
What do you say when you are hugging your children while tears run down your cheeks? After all, there is nothing that can describe the feelings of fear and sadness that you as a parent experience. But I have to tell myself, that my feelings are not theirs, and my feelings should not take over. It is important to create a space for the children, an emotional safe room to be in around us adults.
So I grapple with to things. I reach out to them with my adult perspective while being at eye level and letting them have their feelings in their world which is not yet an adult one. And it’s hard. “Life is never so black that there is no light ahead. There is always help to find, from us or other adults you trust,” I say, hoping that the straws I grasp for are the right ones for them to hear.
There is not much research on suicide by young people under 13, but the numbers show that suicides in this age group are on the rise.
Last Friday, that fact came way too close to our and my children’s lives here in the United States. But the problem is global. All over the world, children are struggling mentally, in Svendborg and in Seattle, in Soul and in Sao Paulo.
Monday morning, there was a sea of flowers around the flagpole at my daughter’s school. Many of the children wore black clothing, several of them had written cards which they lay down by the bouquets. All employees in the school district who have had the slightest training relevant to situations like this, had been called in and were ready to receive the children. Yet only two-thirds of the school’s students turned up for class. The teachers tried their best to make the school day bearable, and the school councilor did outreach work to the students.
For this young boy´s suicide to happen in a week where the students learned about recognizing the signs of suicide and where many of them participated in a rainbow meeting, something has gone terribly wrong. How a young boy, just 12 years ole, could end up lifeless in a school bathroom, I will never fully understand.
But despite good intentions of creating a space for conversation, to inform and to reach out, a family lost their son. Information about suicide and other initiatives related to children’s identity must be reviewed and evaluated. Perhaps the teaching material is not up to date? I am sure, we can all agree that something went wrong.
I’m not blaming anyone. I’m just saying that when such a tragedy can happen, there is something that could have been handled differently to give this young boy help he needed.
Because, sadly, it happens that very young people commit suicide – and it happens more often than many of us might think. This fact needs to be addressed – so we can do something about it.