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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

'The Runaway Bunny' goes to college

A "dramatic mental health crisis" is challenging colleges and universities, writes Mary Dana Hinton, president of Hollins University, on the Hechinger Report

More than 40 percent of college students report some form of depression and 37 percent anxiety, according to the national Healthy Minds Study, she writes. "Since 2007, suicidal ideation has more than doubled and now impacts 14 percent of students."

The runaway bunny's mother was just a tad stalker-ish.

Hollins, a women's college in Virginia, has strengthened mental-health services, Hinton writes. But the college also is trying to support students who haven't asked for help.

"Long before the U.S. Surgeon General issued an advisory about the perils of social media for young people, we knew about its negative effect on the mental well-being of young women," she writes. Many students are lonely.

Hollins has tried connecting students to each other -- and getting them away from their screens.

“Sundaes on Sunday” used ice cream to get students to the equestrian center, where they could hang out with horses. Game Nights feature snacks, board games and conversation.

What really works, writes Hinton, is bedtime stories. After all, Margaret Wise Brown, author of Goodnight Moon and The Runaway Bunny is a Hollins graduate.

. . . we ordered hot cocoa, set up a yule log and told students to don pajamas, bring their blankets, a friend and, if they liked, a stuffed animal.
. . . By the third page of Brown’s “Runaway Bunny,” I heard the first sob. By the time I finished it, we were all in tears.
. . . We recovered as we closed, reciting “Goodnight Moon” together, but the power of the emotional release throughout the reading was unforgettable. The group doubled in size for the next bedtime stories.

Students "needed to spend a few moments recalling when, for many, life was simpler and connection everywhere," she concludes. "They needed to be emotionally nourished."

Charming? Alarming?

I read Goodnight Moon to my daughter every night (along with a second, rotating book choice) for many years. But, at some point, we stopped -- long before she went to college. She grew up.

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