The 1964 “Daisy” TV spot strongly hinted that “hawk” Barry Goldwater would blow up the planet should he defeat Democrat incumbent Lyndon Johnson.

The ad didn’t spring out of the blue; back in the 1950s and 60s we were well schooled on the appropriate response to a nuclear attack: to be alert to the blinding flash that was the first sign of a nearby nuclear explosion, at which time we should “duck and cover” or to jump into a depression should there be one immediately nearby; and if indoors to hide under the heaviest piece of furniture.

We were taught to recognise the distinct siren signal indicating a nuclear attack was underway. Khrushchev said “we will bury you” and then installed nuclear missiles in Cuba only 90 miles – as we were repeatedly reminded – off our coast. Everyone knew that a nuclear war could, and likely would, cinderise the planet. The clear and present threat of armageddon lingered for decades, yet everyone somehow managed to carry on with life.

Things have certainly changed, National Union of Students welfare officer Jill Molloy revealing that 70% of university students are overwhelmed by day-to-day life *:

Ms Molloy, 20, said there was “massive demand” placed on some “underfunded” university mental health services, with up to seven-week waiting lists.

She said financial stress, the penalty rate cut decision, high workloads and drug and alcohol abuse were among student’s worries.

“Our generation has a number of [extra] stresses; we are living in a very competitive time with less jobs [and] where we’re very connected to the world,” she said.

A troubled youngster elaborates:

Amelia, 19, was left paralysed with anxiety and depression after moving to Melbourne from Brisbane to take up a university scholarship last year.

Despite being the high school dux, who scored the highest possible ATAR, she found herself unable to get out of bed and attend classes at University of Melbourne.

“There is a lot of anxiety about our futures,” Amelia says.

“There is greater sense of responsibility to our society, to our environment, to our planet, and also to ourselves to achieve highly to be prepared enough to manage an ever changing rapidly developing world.”

Amelia, who had anorexia and an obsession with healthy eating in high school linked to perfectionism, says young people have grown up in an age when all the bad news is at their smartphone fingertips.

“It’s no wonder we struggle to focus at uni or we struggle to engage in a lighthearted manner … when we are constantly bombarded by this information.”

No sane person would make light of Amelia’s plight; she’s obviously having problems coping. That said, given the current child rearing provided by parents and their school teacher surrogates, it’s no wonder seven out 10 youngsters are losing the plot – life is not a safe space.

*The NUS survey was advertised online and available to everyone; it is neither valid nor reliable.

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