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Campus Now

Spring Verdure Issue (May)

SPECIAL REPORT

From the Emotional Health Consultation Office

Healthy lifestyle starting from Waseda University

As a university which is responsible for the health of our students, Waseda University is working to promote student health from the integrated perspective of exercise, diet, medicine and emotional care.

This article introduces activities for realizing a Waseda Healthy Campus which will provide information and motivate students to maintain and manage their own health from their time as university students and throughout their life after graduating.

Creating an environment which allows each student to consider the future with peace of mind

Koichiro Watanabe
Commissioned Doctor, Emotional Health Consultation Office, Health Support Center

University students tend to be emotionally unstable

University life is a period during which emotional illness often surfaces. University is the first time that children live away from their parents. They begin to prepare for their life as working members of society. It is an emotionally unstable period in which students are expected to establish their personal identity and select their path in life. Since 10 years ago, I have provided emotional health consultation at Waseda University. Previously, the majority of consultation dealt with worries related to studies or job-search activities. However, the majority of consultation nowadays concerns interpersonal relationships. There are an increasing number of students who feel loneliness or isolation due to their inability to form friendships at university, or unable to discuss their true feelings due to the superficiality of relationships. Currently, there is little leeway in society due to the emphasis on ability and the fast-track to success. Everyone is having enough trouble handling their own life and the spirit of mutual support has weakened. I believe that such trends contribute to the manifestation of emotional illness.

Just like cancer, early detection is important when treating emotional illness. At home, parents should talk to children whose personality has suddenly changed from serious to frivolous, or students who show changes in their sleeping or eating patterns. There is no need to be meddlesome in the case of university students. It is enough to bring the problems to the student's attention and encourage them to think. Still, there is no guarantee that students will feel peace of mind while under the supervision of their parents. In addition to commuting between home and university, it is important that students have a variety of experiences during extracurricular activities and at part-time jobs, and build human relationships of which their parents are unaware. Failure to do so will prevent students from maturing past a high-school mentality and will interfere with the acquisition of social skills. It will also make the search for employment difficult.

It is important to understand emotional illness and work together to overcome problems

Types of mental illness which are increasing among university students include bipolar disorder, social anxiety disorder and pervasive developmental disorder. Bipolar disorder is an illness in which the patient experiences alternate periods of highs and depression. Although understanding has increased regarding depression and patients now have civic rights, bipolar disorder is a different matter. During the high periods, people become confused regarding the patient and it is difficult to obtain understanding. Patients worry over this phenomenon, causing their condition to worsen. In a worst-case scenario, the patient may be driving to commit suicide. People suffering from social anxiety disorder have difficulty engaging in a task in front of others. Nowadays, such patients are experiencing extreme difficulty due to the emphasis on presentation skills. People with pervasive developmental disorder tend to become disconnected from others due to poor communication skills and the inability to interpret the atmosphere around them. Previously, such patients were regarded as being eccentric. Their good points were recognized and they were able to blend into social groups. However, in today's society, such people are often excluded from social groups. As explained here, the environment surrounding emotionally ill people has changed and many cases can be observed in which their symptoms have worsened.

If students drop out of university due to emotional disorders, they will become further isolated from society in their future life. It is important that faculty and staff do not force emotionally unstable students to conform to routine methods. Rather, it is important to talk with such students and propose compromises. In order for all students to realize their potential, I believe that faculty and staff members must act as gatekeepers and conduct follow-ups. Faculty and staff who are unsure of how to interact with students should contact the Emotional Health Consultation Office.

The social environment in Japan has changed to the extent that standards which existed 10 years ago are now totally outdated. At both university and at home, we must respond flexibly to each student and create an environment which allows students to consider their future with peace of mind. The Health Support Center must not simply diagnose illness and leave subsequent action to the student. Instead, we must cooperate with faculty, staff, families and the Career Center and conduct follow-ups until the student has found employment and is capable of living independently.

Koichiro Watanabe
Commissioned Doctor, Emotional Health Consultation Office, Health Support Center

Holds a PhD in medicine. Graduated from the Keio University School of Medicine in 1988. Worked at Kyosai Tachikawa Hospital and Oizumi Hospital, and served as a full-time instructor at Keio University. Currently serves as Associate Professor at the Department of Neuropsychiatry, School of Medicine, Kyorin University. From April 2004, has served as a commissioned doctor at the Health Support Center.