The mental composure of a great many university students these days is fragile. You would be surprised by how many miss classes, and how many classes they miss, because of depression or anxiety. Student health administrators send letters to faculty asking them to excuse the absences of perturbed students, allow them extra time on tests, and make a variety of other accommodations for them, because their discomposure is considered a disability.
For that matter, the equanimity of a lot of other citizens is pretty fragile too. They were anxious before the epidemic. They have been anxious because of the epidemic. According to therapists interviewed by the Wall Street Journal, now some of them appear to be anxious because the epidemic is tapering down. Its windup hints at the possible loss of rules that not only soothe and comfort them, but also reassure them that their anxieties are appropriate.
I don’t write to criticize them. The appropriate response is compassion. But theirs are not ideal frames of mind for the continuance of a university, or for that matter of a republic. The pursuit of learning, like the pursuit of the common good, requires a certain calm, toughness, resistance to panic, and ability to function without being told what to do.
These students and fellow citizens need the encouragement of the rest of us to get better. In a thousand ways, though, the kinds of “help” that many counselors and politicians offer tends to make them more anxious and dependent still.
There are reasons for that, but they lie less in those who turn to these counselors and politicians than in the counselors and politicians themselves. That very large topic is for another day.