And so it begins…another year, another semester, another slew of essays, exams, social obligations and sleepless nights. If this idea depresses you, our apologies, but it’s time to face facts. University can be rewarding but it can also be hard. In their study, “The prevalence and socio-demographic correlations of depression, anxiety and stress among a group of university students,” Nuran Bayram and Nazan Bilgel discovered that among 1,617 students, 27.1 per cent demonstrated moderate to severe signs of depression, 47.1 per cent showed moderate to severe signs of anxiety and 27 per cent were moderately to severely stressed. If this doesn’t ring true to you then congratulations, it would appear you’re doing just fine; for the rest of us the start of school is the deep breath before the plunge.
In their study published July 17, the Canadian Organization of University and College Health, in which 30,000 students were surveyed, 90 per cent said that university left them feeling overwhelmed. This clearly illustrates that university IS hard and we need to stop denying it. Stop downplaying the toll university life takes on mental health. All involved, from students and university administrators to faculty, need to more fully accept (and plan for) university’s demanding effects on mental and physical well-being.
Stop encouraging students to complete their studies in a certain amount of time. Place less emphasis on grade and grade point averages. Create a flexible exam schedule. Give students who need it more time for assignments. Providing counselling and mental health services is all well and good but talking only does so much to relieve stress and anxiety when the 1,000 word paper is due tomorrow. And sure, you can plan to your heart’s desire to get things done in a timely manner, but things don’t always go according to plan. Sometimes assignments take longer to complete than the time you’ve allotted to them. It doesn’t help that cramming involves less sleep, which in turn exacerbates stress, anxiety and depression.
Furthermore, education only gets you so far in the workplace these days. Employers want to see more than just your degree on your resume. Becky Wareham, a graduate recruiting manager for the wine company Waitrose is quoted as saying that her company is looking “for exceptional, rounded, ambitious individuals who can show sustained involvement in activities other than the purely academic, such as work experience, industrial placements and voluntary work in the UK or abroad,” in an article by The Telegraph, Aug. 4. In the same article, Tricia Moon, director at Bell Pottinger, a personal relations and marketing group, says that her company wants more than just a degree — they want field-related work experience.
The question then is how should stressed out students appropriately plan for future careers when they’re simultaneously crushed under the weight of academic responsibility. Something needs to change, because the truth is, students are more often than not a reflection of our cover photo, and that’s just not healthy.