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October 21, 1987 - Image 37

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1987-10-21

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reKSUU 0 U- u L '
The Perils
of Burnout
e left no note, no last
messages, nothing to
justify the desperation
of his final act. But in
Stress is running even higher his last despairing hours, according to the USC Daily Trojan, he
telephoned his mother. "He felt like no matter what he did, he
than usual atcolleges this fall. In couldn't please anybody," she recalled to the newspaper. Then,
about 2 o'clock one morning last month, Hansey Bermudez
addition to the traditional ten- jumped 11 stories to his death from the top of the University
Hilton near downtown Los Angeles. After the suicide, his
sl s-, pes mother speculated that "the pressure to get ahead did him in."
social-many students are car- Bermudez was a freshman drama major, 19. He had been at the
University of Southern California for only two weeks.
rying heavy financial loads. Stress. Rarely does it drive students all the way over the
edge to suicide. But it often produces burnout, that hopeless,
More schools are responding helpless feeling that can paralyze sufferers in a state of
emotional and physical exhaustion. Even in a world where
with sophisticated counseling anxiety is as commonplace as overdue papers, campus burn-
out appears to be running especially high. At USC, counselors
on how to cope with the pres- were booked solid with "emergency-crisis situations" during
sures. But burnout, that hope- the first full week of the fall semester. At Tulane, student
demand for counseling services has more than doubled in the
less, helpless feeling, still last three years. And at the University of Texas in Austin,
demand for counseling rose 16 percent in the last academic
looms large-most often for year; the waiting list grew so long at one point that a student
who was seeking nonemergency help in October might not get
those who lack support and are it until spring.
afraid to ask for assistance. College burnout, according to the registrar's office at the
University of Oregon, is now the single most common reason
students list for leaving school before earning their degrees. All
told, about 25 percent of college students suffer stress levels
high enough to make them drop out, says Charles Nelson,
professor emeritus of sociology at Indiana State, who has just
finished a study of 3,000 students. Those who don't drop out
frequently try to numb their pain with alcohol or drugs. And at
more than a few colleges, especially in the Southwest, students
are turning again to an old and dishonored group of drugs-
known generally as speed-to help themselves get by (page 8).
Financial burdens: What's building up the pressure? Stu-
dents still deal with all the traditional problems: keeping up
grades, forging romantic attachments, figuring out who they
are and what they want to become. But there are newer
concerns, as well. The growing cost of college means that
students either carry more of the financial burden them-
selves, through loans and jobs, or worry about the load their
families are bearing. "I stepped into classes and was afraid I



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