Duck Syndrome

An NYTimes article titled Campus Suicide and the Pressure of Perfection contemplates reasons for the steady rise in college suicides. One idea is the "Duck Syndrome." Like a duck that appears to be calmly gliding across water while it frantically paddles underneath the surface, students often feel pressure to be “effortlessly perfect”: smart, accomplished, fit, good looking and popular, all without visible effort.

“Nobody wants to be the one who is struggling while everyone else is doing great,” said Kahaari Kenyatta, a Penn senior. “Despite whatever’s going on — if you’re stressed, a bit depressed, if you’re overwhelmed — you want to put up this positive front.”

Duck syndrome is evident in Madison Holleran’s suicide. Her Instagram feed was full of upbeat, smiling pictures of hanging out with friends or lounging in the sun, all while she suffered silently. She thought her high school friends had a better social life to her, but she covered it up with a shiny online presence. And hour before she died by suicide, she posted a photo of holiday lights outside. 

One of the only ways to overcome duck syndrome is to talk about it - be honest when it feels like we're frantically paddling against the current, share what it feels like, seek support, and let ourselves be amazed by how many people feel the same way or have felt that way in the past and can help us get through it. 

Posted on July 28, 2015 .