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"I believe that education is the civil rights issue of our generation." – U.S. Secretary Arne Duncan, October 9, 2009

Pressures of Education—Contributing to Mental Disorders?

As an avid psychology student, stumbling upon Prozac Campus: the Next Generation was like finding that the last piece of chocolate cake in the back of my fridge (score!). Well you must think I have much to say about what appears to be a current epidemic in the deterioration of student’s mental health—I do! As a student myself I can concede that academic pressure is on the rise. I’ve worked my tail off since day one in kindergarten, and yes, I was always the student in intro to art who stayed afterschool to finish their color wheel. Why strive for such perfection? I suppose that I always felt like I needed to give myself a competitive edge so that I could get into the college of my choice. According to the article, my feelings may not be unrealistic, where students are met with more rejection by colleges today than they have in years past, alluding to the fact that college admission involves fierce competition.

This competition and academic pressure to get into college is only just the beginning; it spills over into our college experience and us students struggle to maintain perfection. So what does this all mean for college students? For me, as I am sure it is for most other students it means emotional difficulties—wait, no, that is far too simple and hardly captures what really goes on behind the scenes. My attempt to adjust to college life as a freshman constituted of tears, feelings that my efforts never paid off, homesickness, test anxiety, not to mention the weekly rounds of therapy with Häagen-Dazs.

Today, it is all too common for students to pathologize symptoms such as stress, feelings of loneliness, and anxiety that are nothing more than natural consequences of the challenges and pressures they face in life. The author of the article makes the point that students fail to openly discuss their feelings which leads them to believe that they are alone in what they are experiencing. Such beliefs may lead them to think they are suffering from a mental disorder.

If students openly discussed their feelings and confided in others, perhaps it would reduce this supposed rise in mental disorders. To help students communicate these feelings it may be beneficial for colleges to offer and encourage students to actively participate in groups where they can learn that their feelings are mutual among others. What are some other ways in which we can assist students’ psychological well-being?

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2 thoughts on “Pressures of Education—Contributing to Mental Disorders?

  1. I couldn’t agree more. I am currently a senior at an art college (going on my 5th year) and the pressures to do well in school and get a job right out of college are very overwhelming and can trigger mental disorders. I feel that the best way to assist students’ psychological well-being is if the professors realized that their students are dealing with a lot of stress and be sympathetic and understanding of the fact that college is a struggle outside of the classroom. Sometimes it seems that teachers favorite some students and don’t care if the other students learn or not. This in my opinion, is bad teaching and less commonly spoken about but can lead students to feel unimportant. I feel that if professors treat each student well and want each and every person to succeed it would make being a student easier and lead to less mental disorders.

    • alison2012internship on said:

      I agree with what you are saying about the effect of good/bad teaching. My favorite teachers and the ones that had the greatest impact on me demonstrated support within the class curriculum but also beyond, regarding my future. This extra support gave me a lot of confidence–just shows how influential teachers can be in student’s lives.

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