Book by Kadison, Richard D., and DiGeronimo, Theresa Foy
Review by Emily M. McCall
Academic Advisor
Carnegie Mellon University

Richard Kadison and Theresa Foy DiGeronimo, in College of the Overwhelmed: The Campus Mental Health Crisis and What to Do About It, offer a persuasive argument for the examination and reaffirmation of the academy’s commitment to the preservation of the overall mental health of students.  Their call to action is timely and pressing considering the dramatic increase in mental health disorders in college-age students and high profile cases of suicide on our campuses.  

At many higher education institutions there still is debate regarding the level of campus responsibility for the mental and emotional health of students.  Kadison and DiGeronimo argue that “the emotional well-being of students goes hand-in-hand with their academic development….therefore, colleges must put significant resources in terms of staff, facilities, and financial backing into their programs of mental health services” (p. 156).  The authors’ goal is to challenge parents, students, advisors, and administrators to resist sweeping these disturbing facts under the rug and instead work to safeguard their students’ mental health by communicating in new ways, identifying proper resources, and knowing the warning signs for mental illness.  

Part I sets forth the factors that contribute to the increase in depression, anxiety, eating disorders, suicide, etc., and integrates case studies drawn from Richard Kadison’s work as Chief of the Mental Health Service at Harvard University.  This section explores how the transition into college can trigger a multitude of unexpected questions and problems for students regarding issues such as intimate relationships, family expectations, financial worries, sexual orientation, and cultural and racial differences.  These facts will not surprise those who have daily contact with college students. However, even for the seasoned advisor or administrator, this section elucidates risk factors and warning signs that may not be widely known and can aid in the quick identification of a problem.

Part II delves into solutions. Here, the authors offer college administrators, parents, and students advice – tailored to each group’s unique needs – regarding how to approach situation in an informed, proactive manner. One of the book’s greatest strengths is the sound advice offered to parents for communicating  with their child in a way that encourages the development of their child’s problem-solving skills as opposed to the imposition of a quick fix.  As the authors note, “If [parents] initiate the calls, contacts, or complaints, [the] child loses a very important opportunity to do this for herself” (p. 195).  This is a particularly valuable reminder for parents of the Millennial generation whose best intentions may actually hinder healthy transition to young adulthood.  

The last part of the book, which is geared toward students, is the shortest and least informative section.  Perhaps, the authors could better address this audience in another work that focuses entirely upon the examination of issues from students’ unique perspectives.  

This book is a vital resource for college advisors, administrators, and parents. It challenges the current stigmatic mindset with which many approach mentally ill students; instead it offers a hopeful vision for the overall mental health of our students.

College of the Overwhelmed: The Campus Mental Health Crisis and What to Do About It. (2004). Book by Kadison, Richard D., and DiGeronimo, Theresa Foy. Review by Emily M. McCall. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 304 pp.  ISBN# 0-7879-7467-6
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