Taking the pressure off

In a recent study, completed by the Centre for Suicide Research and Prevention at Hong Kong University, it has been revealed that UK students suicide rates are on the rise. To some people, this may come as a shock. Often the student lifestyle is portrayed as fun, wild and free and for a lot of it, it is. However, there is the side that isn’t always spoken about which is the stress, anxiety and fear that comes with doing a degree. Students pay thousands upon thousands of pounds and spend years studying for a piece of paper that may or may not even get them a graduate job at the end of it. Life can be tough for a student nowadays but try telling that to our parents. My parents both owned property (albeit in Eastbourne) when they were my age and were already in full time careers that they are still in to this day. My mum didn’t have to pay to go to university and my dad never went, meaning that neither of them have the crippling debt that I have.

When trying to explain the stress of deadlines to them in my undergraduate degree, they would try to understand but often the comment, “it was much harder in my day” would come out. What they didn’t see was the weeks I spent in the library, slaving away at a computer, terrified that I wouldn’t get my work done in time. Parents (and lecturers) don’t always see the stages of panic when students felt like they’re not good enough, when they can’t remember why they decided to do a degree in the first place. Most students have no money, are perpetually swamped with deadlines and have immense pressure placed upon them, both by family and the academic system.

Whilst it saddens me, it doesn’t necessarily surprise me that there are students out there who find it too difficult. There are people who find it hard to speak about their worries and fears and it can easily build up and overwhelm them. It can often feel like with university work, there is no end in sight. Everyone is expecting you to do well, to succeed and achieve high grades but it is not often asked how the stress is affecting your mental health. Are you coping with the deadlines? Is the workload manageable? The answer to these questions is sometimes no.

This is not to say that student life is miserable, far from it, but everyone has a different experience and it isn’t always a positive one. The pressures on the young generation are huge. If you don’t want to go to university, many parents and teachers will mark that at as a negative decision and suggest that, without a degree, you cannot be successful.

Awareness of mental health is getting better and hopefully, more universities will encourage their students to speak out about any concerns they have but in the meantime, there should be more understanding of the pressures put on students and a discussion happening with younger people that going to university shouldn’t be the be all and the end all. It should be an enjoyable, rewarding time, that of course, is never going to be easy but most certainly shouldn’t be so hard that it is all consuming.