Students, particularly those aged 14 to 18 who are about to take board examinations, face immense pressure from schools.
Come exam season, teenagers these days have to face a monster: Academic stress. And as they fight their battles, stories of youth running away and sinking deep into depression – all because of the pressure to get good grades – are prompting experts to raise the alarm.
Students, particularly those aged 14 to 18 who are about to take board examinations, face immense pressure from schools, teachers, and even their parents. “It’s a very tough time. My peers, teachers, the school, and my parents make it sound like this is one of the most crucial times in my life. If I fail, there would be no coming back,” said Ananth Manikandan, a Grade 10 Indian student from Abu Dhabi.
Those in high-stress situations have been prone to anxiety, depression – and, worst, suicide, reports have shown. Some also run away, like what happened in two separate cases in Sharjah earlier this year.
Anu Mathew, clinical psychologist at Zulekha Hospital, Sharjah, said: “It is very evident that the mental health issues in children and young adults are on the rise dramatically. It’s an alarming situation where each one of us has to wake up. Children’s interactions between friends and family have reduced.”
According to the World Health Organisation, suicide is the third leading cause of death in 15-19-year-olds.
Some kids turn to cigarettes, alcohol, and, sometimes, even illegal drugs, another doctor said.
Dr Sunny Kurian, a Sharjah-based paediatrician and founder president of the UAE wing of the Indian Academy of Paediatrics, said: “I’ve had to treat kids who have been consuming alcohol since age 14. In most cases, the students faced extreme pressure to do well in their schools.”
But why do we see an increasing trend in suicidal patterns or runaways among the youth these days?
Psychologists have said that among major reasons behind these alarming reports are: Increased parental pressure; social media pressure; family breakdown; sleep deprivation; reduced parental contact because of busy work schedules; and overprotective parenting.
Babu Rangarajan, student counsellor at GEMS Millennium School, Sharjah, said: “Parents can identify the problem through the changes in children’s behaviour, facial expression, tone, moods, academic performance, and sleep and eating habits.”
These signs are usually clear but many shrug it off, blaming such behaviours on the ‘teenage phase’.
Mental health issues among the youth are more complex than most people think, but experts have assured that there are solutions.
With Khaleej Times’ #Here4U campaign, we will be addressing the stress and anxiety that the youth are going through. Watch this space for discussions as we speak to experts, students, parents, medical professionals, government officials, and social workers, and launch a meaningful conversation about child safety and adolescent mental health.
What is academic stress?
Medical experts define academic stress as the body’s response to academic-related demands that exceed adaptive capabilities of students. It is estimated that 10 to
30 per cent of students experience some degree of stress of this kind during their academic career.
10 tips to beat the stress
1-Watch a film, a TV show or listen to a podcast or a comedian that makes you laugh
2-A shower or a bath can help
3-Get some sleep. The virtues of a good night’s sleep during exam season should not be underestimated
4-Avoid other stressed people. The ones with cue cards outside of the exam hall, frantically trying to remember key dates and equations. They will do nothing for your stress levels
5-Be flexible. While having a revision time table is one of the best tools in your arsenal for exam success, don’t be too hard on yourself if you don’t stick to it. If you accidentally oversleep, don’t write the day off
6- Drink some herbal tea or a cup of hot chocolate. It’s a well-known fact that hot drinks are known to soothe the soul (avoid too much caffeine, though!)
7-Cook or bake something. Just the thought of having something delicious to eat can bring you joy. As a bonus side note, try and cook something healthy, too. You can’t feed your mind well if you don’t feed your body well
8-Keep things in perspective. Yes, exams are important. But you are so much more than your exam results
9-Avoid the exam ‘post-mortem’. You don’t need to know how other people fared in the exam. You’ve done your best, you can’t go back and change your answers so the second you step out of the exam hall, focus on your next exam
10-Write down everything you feel like you need to do and try and tick one thing off. Just the act of feeling like you are in control of your revision can help
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