Universities Must Do More To Ease Student Stress

Mental Health

The sun is beginning to peep out, we have started shrugging off the winter woollies and summer is on the horizon, yet not everyone can rush out and enjoy what seems to be a twenty minute flash of sunshine. It is once again approaching the time of year dreaded by many young people. Examination time has reared its ugly head once again. As dissertation deadlines loom and many of us students have taken up residence in the library in order to meet the expectations of our tutors, the stresses of University life have taken its toll on many young minds.

While University students are on occasion portrayed in a negative manner, as seen in the reporting of the so-called ‘Holyland’s Riots’ in Belfast in 2009, it is evident that it is all too easy for the more mature generations of society to forget that the ‘party wild students’ are simply a minority, and the majority of students are dedicated scholars who enjoy themselves from time to time. The pressure students feel to succeed can come from a variety of sources. Parents, Tutors and even prospective employers can be the source of pressure, often parents do not even realise the pressure they may be placing upon their children. However, the most pressure exerted upon students comes from themselves.

The average undergraduate student is aged 18 to 21. At this age, although technically adults, many of us still struggle with new found independence, financial strain and the work load which many believe is not evenly spread throughout the year. Having spoken to many final year students over the past view weeks, I was horrified to hear how they felt. I am feeling the strain myself but for some, the feelings surpass mere stress. While some mentioned a lack of sleep and missing out on a few social activities, others spoke of their depression, despair and their hopelessness. In recent years, much emphasis has been put on the importance of mental health and the need to remove the stigma from illnesses such as depression. Yet, our young people appear to have slipped through the net. While help is available, in the form of on campus counselling in many universities, it has become apparent these services are not being availed off. Students, especially young males, are suffering under the weight of mounting deadlines, research, financial worries and not to mention their own personal lives and they appear to feel like they are all alone.

Universities can help relieve mounting pressure through discussion with their colleagues to set out deadlines in a manner which ensures that deadlines do not fall together thus concocting a potent cocktail of stress, pressure and exhaustion. It is difficult to ascertain whom should drive forward the battle on mental health in students, specifically that caused by University life. Unions have attempted to roll out various awareness campaigns, yet the sticking factor in all Universities is persuading students to avail of these services. Perhaps circulating words of support via student email accounts or even a small mention at the end of a lecture would further drive the message home to students that you are not alone and you can cope.

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