Mind Over Matter

 Mental health is a multifaceted issue

According to the UK Mental Health Foundation, 50% of mental health problems are established by age 14. A school environment has such a significant impact on the emotional development of a child, and can therefore be seen as a source of worsening mental health in students.

 

Type into Google “Why does school…” and a host of worrying questions arise, including:

  • Why does school Give me anxiety?
  • Why does school Make me sad?
  • Why does school Make me feel sick?
  • Why does school Cause depression?

 

According to the National Institutes of Health, nearly 1 in 3 adolescents aged 13 to 18 will experience an anxiety disorder at some point in time. 

 

Anxiety and school are intrinsically correlated. Between 2007 and 2012, anxiety disorders in children increased by 20%. This is a cumulative issue that has been recently augmented by COVID-19 and the reformed A Level/GCSE exams. 

With this arduous culture of achievement, school can now be seen as an environment rife with pressure and expectation, rather than a place of discovery.

 

A spectrum of worry has afflicted students of all ages. A poll of 38,000 UK university students in 2019 revealed “alarmingly high” levels of self-harm, loneliness, anxiety, and substance abuse. 21.5% had a current mental health diagnosis. Maybe the most perturbing statistic was that 75.6% fell subservient to the stigma surrounding mental health and concealed their struggles from peers.

 According to a survey by BBC News in 2014, over 100,000 students enrolled on a Psychology degree qualification. Consequently, more research and funding will be allocated to mental health.

 

It could be argued that the digital age has divulged a pervasive culture of performance and attainment in UK education systems, thereby fuelling the mental health crisis. Pictures, stories, and tweets about university halls, results, and impending exams are perpetuated amongst students.

         “School is the root of intense stress. Anxiety to me is claustrophobic, a blur, it’s overwhelming and exhausting,” a Loughborough university student reveals.

 

How can we expect our future workforce to succeed if their mental health is not a priority? A laborious battle, mental health should not be merely allayed, but placed at the forefront of a student’s academic life. 

Schools and universities have increased investment for the imploding mental health crisis, creating endless supplies of counsellors and therapists to quell the gall of exam pressure.  

 

What more can be done to contain the crisis?

Schools should explicitly educate parents and students on symptoms of varying mental health disorders. Introducing more creative avenues in the curriculum – avenues which inspire confident learners and evoke passion in students – should be emphasised. 

Nurturing passion for education as opposed to teaching recitation skills may reduce exam stress, encouraging our future workforce to cultivate a passion. Singapore, for example, does not introduce formal exams until secondary school. Ong Ye Kung, Singapore’s Minister of Education, recognises that a “fear of failure does exist”. 

By eliminating routes which produce failure, students are liberated to enjoy the curriculum and pursue their purpose.

 

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