Where average means failure

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Students respond to a potentially depressing culture

A single 22-year-old college student with a C-average who attends church a few times a year might be perfectly content and normal elsewhere.

In the unique cultural landscape of Utah, however, this person could understandably be in the midst of a major depressive episode.

This issue of the UVU Review features a story about Dr. Jack L. Jensen’s research concerning depression in Utah, specifically at this university.

In order to explain why the rates are significantly elevated here, he hypothesized that cultural factors are highly significant. These include the potential harm of the religious culture, toxic perfectionism and the effects of young marriages on those who are single.

When presented with this data, many students said it rang true. Although not necessarily depressed, they feel significant pressure.

Kerry Johnson has experienced firsthand the difficulties associated with the demanding religious culture. He saw that many of his neighbors were caught up in meeting copious perceived religious duties to the point of neglecting their children. He did not feel that this was healthy.

“I was LDS and I left the church for that very reason,” Johnson said. You never know if you’ve done enough.”

Although he has an MBA and worked as a real estate agent, he is currently attending school to fulfill science prerequisites so he can go to medical school.

“When I left the church, my clients wouldn’t work with me any more,” Johnson said.

Philosophy professor Ken White argues that while religion is a driving force locally, the problem is not the teachings themselves.

“I think the societal factors have a lot to do with that,” he said. “I think it’s people’s perceptions of the religious culture rather than the religion itself.”

The suffering due to perfectionism Johnson observed isn’t limited to religious congregations. It is also highly potent for students who want to get ahead.

“I’m the first person in my family to even graduate from high school, so I want to do well,” said Christina Jenkins, who is majoring in Elementary Education.

Perfectionism plays a role in interpersonal relationships, too.

“I’d rather people think highly of me than have people think nothing of me,” said Bridget Wilkinson, also an Elementary Education major. She is a self-described perfectionist who also stresses about not being married. “If you don’t get married, it’s like, ‘Why doesn’t someone love me?’ ”

She is not too worried, though.

“I feel like everything happens for a reason,” she said. “I have faith that it will work out.”

Others are not as relaxed. Civil Engineering major Weston Bellon, 19, hopes to find his special someone sooner rather than later.

“Everyone’s getting married, so there won’t be people later on,” he said.

While many students reported their dissatisfaction with their current availability, it is possible to be single and happy.

“I’m 23 and perfectly not married,” said Sariah Medrano, a Criminal Justice major.