Recently, reports of mental health issues surrounding influences of academic pressure have been brought to the forefront of the general public’s attention – but why are these rates rocketing? Just how vast of an epidemic is it? And how do educational establishments play a fatal role in it all?
With the mental health crisis in the West seemingly growing at rapid rates, the pressures of academia, and the strain on student’s well-being they can insinuate, are being brought into the lime-light.
Recent data collection has revealed that shocking and vast amounts of students are falling victim to the most common depressive symptoms. A whopping third of university students were found to have, over their previous academic year, experienced thoughts of suicide and a monstrous 61% of high school students have stated that stress and anxiety from school has had an immensely negative effect on their life and well-being.
So why is this? Why are we sacrificing our mental state for a percentage on a test? A lot of it has to do with the stigma that is still entrapping mental health and stopping it from being taken seriously. Students who experience academic pressure are most likely high-achievers and due to this, authority figures can’t quite seem to wrap their heads around their students heads not operating so well. But they have good grades? They can study? How can they be depressed?
Very easily, actually.
One of the deadliest misconceptions about mental health issues are that the signs are always visible or that people who have or are certain things can’t suffer from mental illness. Unlike a lot of things in our society, mental health issues do not discriminate – and academically achieving pupils are no different. Now, for all academic pressure is an external influence, it can and does impact internal things like depression or anxiety or even ignite something that was already dormant. Exam time can be seen as a trigger for mental health issues as the academic pressure builds up to be too much for those who have been forced to feel like they have to suffer in silence – in 2014 29% of teen suicides happened in the waiting period of exam results and underachieving in exams has been known to trigger some teenagers into horrific things like self-harm.
Numerous students have stated that the weight of exam results brought on by helicopter parents and over-bearing teachers has left them feeling like there is no-one to talk to and this is where de-stigmatisation is crucial. We must help our students so that they can help their education. We have to talk about mental health within educational institutions, we have to educate teachers on these sensitive topics, we can’t hush it up or treat it as taboo or a failure on somebody’s part, and we have to destroy the idea that some people are immune to mental illness, or that we can always see the symptoms. We can’t. Mentally ill people can still participate in the school community, attain straight A’s, head off to top universities and still be mentally ill.
It is time that families, teachers and university admissions alike stop putting grades and percentages above children and their state of mind. It is time we stop academically pressuring our kids to the point they feel they’ll never be good enough. It is time we talked about mental health and made sure that educational institutions know it matters.
- By Rachael Smith, Editor of Politics and World
- Sources – The Independent, The Conversation, William Farr School, Carolina Partners