Alternative Break trips offer chance for new perspective
March 1, 2010 —
There are two particular Vanguard stories this week that, on the surface, donít appear to have much in common. One is our A1 feature story on mental health. The other is our preview of Alternative Spring Breaks.
If you havenít had a chance to read either, we recommend you do. But if you insist on reading this editorial first, here is a brief synopsis: Mental health is a serious issue affecting a growing number of the college-age population. Statistics from the National Institute of Mental Health indicate that more than one in four suffer from a mental illness, including depression and anxiety.
Also on A1, four groups of students are bound for spring break destinations that are highly unlikely to attract MTV film crews. Some will meet people who are fighting for equal rights; others will put faces on poverty. One group will step into an environment that is prone to deadly landslides.
So where is the connection? Itís not entirely explicit, but what we draw from our exploration of these topics this week is that Alternative Breakers have an amazing opportunity at hand to gain a viewpoint of life from people who are much less fortunate than themselves.
Although these volunteer experiences donít make studentsí own day-today struggles disappear, they can help put what ails the typical college student into perspective.
Backing up a bit, the statistics surrounding mental health are unsettling and real. As Vanguard A&E editor Jeremy Evansí research indicates, college is a common place for stressors that can lead to depression. Sleep issues? Check. Drug and alcohol related issues? Affirmative. Sexual health? That happens, too. We donít all have these issues, but weíre in an environment where they are commonplace.
The purpose of this editorial is not to scoff at those who experience bouts of mental illness, because any type of mental illness is a serious matter that needs to be treated as such.
However, perhaps one of the best ways to trudge through difficult times is to consider those who have it worse. Perhaps itís a good idea to employ some positive thinking (a leaf taken from staff writer Garrett Shovanís book as seen on A6). Alternative Breakers are about to find out if helping people in worse positions in life will send them back to Saginaw feeling better for simply having made someone elseís life better.
Many world news headlines in recent weeks have been depressing, to say the least. Earthquakes in Haiti and Chile have produced devastating death tolls and caused despair to families around the world. By comparison, a bad breakup, a failed test and car trouble are nothing. Now more than ever, people with significant, unavoidable problems need help from those who are capable of helping.
We commend Alternative Breakers and anyone who donates their time to community service. There is absolutely no guarantee that anyone who gives back will receive anything in return, but they do it anyway. Witnessing despair firsthand doesnít promise to be life-changing, but it always has the potential to inspire people to do good.
It may be worth noting that online tips for combatting seasonal affective disorder range from getting more exercise to eating more fish. But we suggest helping someone else for the purpose of making a difference; if you personally feel better as a result, what a wonderful world this could be.