Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Does MIT make people crazy?

I just graduated from MIT as an undergraduate and just based on the people I knew, I always felt at least half of MIT undergrads had a serious psychiatric disorder. I mean, to put it bluntly, a lot of people at MIT are completely insane.

But I never saw any objective data until recently. The data is from 2001 but I doubt very much has changed other than better treatment efforts (substantially better):

In a student survey at MIT last spring, 74 percent of respondents reported having had a mental problem that interfered with their daily lives, though only 28 percent reported having used the mental health resources the institute provided. Overall, 11 percent of students use the mental health resources at MIT, an increase from 7 percent a few years ago.
The report quoted one student who wrote that “asking for help is not easy for the typical MIT student.”

Three out of four.

If I were a parent I would be scared to send my child there.

But I don't think it's all MIT's fault. In fact, selection bias and interaction effect might explain quite a bit: MIT attracts people who have mental illnesses. Maybe overbearing parents, especially Asians, put extreme pressure on their (own only) child who develops low self-esteem as a result. MIT exacerbates the low self-esteem and forces people to go it alone because it has a culture that shuns getting help. Where does everyone think the children of Tiger Mom's go to school?

So if you're a parent who let their child flourish instead of imposing success on them, and you didn't coddle them their entire life and make it impossible for them to believe they could ever be wrong, I don't think you should worry about your kid going to MIT.

1 comment:

  1. err. Ok. Yeah, 3 out 4 is kinda of insane. But it seems to be true by my own observation. But I got to say that the percentage of crazy kids among the Asians here is not higher than that among white kids/other races. A lot of Asians even seem to be desensitized to the stressful environment since they grew up with it. (When I am stressed from school work here, I always remind myself of the days when I was stuck in school 15 hours every day and everyone in my class was aiming for a full score.)