Buckling Under Pressure Why We Need To Ease Academic Pressure On Students


Buckling Under Pressure

 Why We Need To Ease Academic Pressure On Students

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Pressure to perform and survive in an increasingly competitive educational landscape often drives vulnerable young minds to the brink to taking their own life in order to escape the potential backlash from friends, family and the society. Mahrukh Nadeem explains why we need to seriously attend to this alarming societal issue.

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ducation that was meant to shape a student’s life is now becoming a dreadful reason for a rising number of suicides among students. Recently, Pakistan has witnessed an increasing number of reports of students attempting and committing suicide, and the issue is fast becoming an important mental health worry that requires much attention. Students get into universities carrying hopes of a better future and excellent academic performance, but often fail to cope with this new, much demanding phase in their life and becoming prone to labelling themselves inept of dealing with challenges.  Excelling in academics, meeting parents’ expectations and conforming to society’s set pattern of extraordinary educational standards put an extraordinary pressure on students to compete rigorously and give best results. This pressure sometimes becomes overwhelming, inducing high levels of stress and disorientation in the affected students. This academic pressure, also referred to as academic stress, is often defined as mental distress concerning academic performance, anticipated academic challenges and academic failure.


Potential Harms

Excessive and continuous levels of academic pressure result in academic anxiety, which if not handled timely, manifests into many physical and psychosocial problems. Students who are not capable enough of regulating their emotions often fall prey of psychological problems such as emotional disturbance and depressive thought patterns. Students feel an unnecessary pressure to compete, excel and perform up to the mark and when they fail to perform and meet the idealistic standards, they lose hope and fall into the vicious cycle of depressive thoughts that later transform into depression. 

What our society and educational institutions do not realize is the sheer amount of pressure and anxiety a student experiences when he/she enters universities, where they are expected to take serious decisions regarding their career. Rather than encouraging students about the choices they make and facilitate them in the struggles they experience, the society shuns them for deviating from the norms and puts them under suffocating circumstances of achieving high and undue pressure of being successful. These circumstances leave students with no other choice and they fall victim to negative thoughts and depression, ending up more and more inclined towards taking their life. 

An alarming number of student’s suicide cases have been reported recently in Pakistan. Though suicide has always been a taboo in our society and one of the most ignored issues in our part of the world, it is now high time that we realize the need to highlight and address this growing menace. Suicides can be prevented only if we take timely measures. Creating awareness about the warning signs and educating the society will help us in understanding the risk factors and taking timely preventive measures. Educational bodies, parents, peers and society as a whole needs to be vigilant of the people in their surrounding and make an effort of supporting the students in best possible ways.


How Can You Help As A Parent? 

Parents can play an important role in preventing suicidal ideation by building close ties among family. A strong family bond may help the child to open up about their problems and seek help. Observing any behavioral changes e.g. frequent episodes of sadness, not participating in family events and staying alone in rooms for long hours should be taken into consideration. Spending healthy time with family members may encourage children to talk about their problems. Parents should also make an effort for creating that safe space. Parents should not put their children under undue pressure of achieving unrealistic scores. Giving children the freedom of choosing their career path can also minimize the risk of anxiety and depression. 


How Can You Help As A Teacher? 

A teacher must play a vigilant role in providing emotional and psychological support to students and encourage healthy competition in classrooms. Teachers should look for the warning signs such as reduced participation in classroom, loss of interest during lectures, inability to focus, isolating from peers, low attendance and falling grades. These warning signs aid in understanding the student’s mental health and can help teachers to diagnose the problem and provide timely intervention and refer the student for counselling and professional help. 


How Can Society Play A Role In Suicide Prevention?

As a society, we need to reform the unrealistic standards of our education system and break the typical stereotypes regarding certain career paths. Introducing psychological facilities in campus premises would be helpful for students in resolving their daily life struggles. A psychologist can help students in understanding problems and regulating their emotions and introducing them to various life skills for overcoming hurdles and management of their depressive thought patterns. In order to prevent suicide among students, both on and off campus health care facilities should provide screening tests for suicide and depression. As a society, we need to break the stigma attached with depression and suicide and create awareness about these social issues as much as possible. 


Advice For Students 

Students should realize that failure or performing poorly doesn’t mean that their life has ended. Suicide is not a solution. In times of trouble, getting help from professionals, venting emotions and acquiring basic learning skills is what a student must consider. Learning the skills of time management and stress management can also aid students in minimizing academic stress. Students should also get involved into extra-curricular activities, as several studies have shown that such activities have a positive effect on emotions. One thing to take along with you from this read is: ‘Don’t be so hard on yourself, nothing is as important as your life’. 


Mahrukh Nadeem is a clinical psychologist. She can be reached at mahrukh.nadeem@gmail.com