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Why won’t someone just come out and say it? “I’m stressed”

The beginning

I’m head girl, sit on the debate committee, play on the first team for hockey and at the weekend I’m… stressed.
I'm in my first year of A-Levels and I’m really feeling the pressure, with a weekly calendar that leaves little space for sleep and frequently overflows into the days of rest, I have the feeling I’ve bitten off more than I can chew.

I’ve got relatives begging me to give it up, ditch the extra activities and focus on what you’re actually supposed to be doing- learning. Little do they know universities are searching for that ‘perfect’ package, it’s been drilled into us that being academically brilliant is simply not enough! You need to be able to hum a tune, dance to a beat or have a creative eye. Don’t forget to showcase your sporting talents, universities want budding athletes, those gunning for the Olympics who give it all up for an opportunity to taste a degree.

The options

So yes, on the surface I might look like your average overachiever, SWOT and teachers’ pet. But underneath it all I’m stressed too! I’m pushed to overachieve in every aspect of life and if I don’t there is always someone else who will pick up my slack. I live in constant fear that dropping an activity will shatter my hopes of a seat at my first-choice university.

With coursework, personal statements and essays constantly on the go. I’ve taken to the idea of leaving a year between sixth form and university to travel the world, hopefully that will give me a break from the stress.

Stomping out stress

So, what’s the biggest stress for students? Something we all understand, the fear of failure. 77% of all students report that they have a fear of missing the mark. Additionally, 71% of students say studying is their main cause of stress and 39% are stressed about finding work after university. Highlight to your students that there’s no rush to go into full time employment. Gap years, part-time employment or further study are all options. Encourage your students to participate in sport to relive some stress, meditation to get some ‘me’ time and always take regular breaks from study. When stress manifests itself, grades and quality of life suffer.

Spotting mental illness

90% of people who develop mental health issues show signs in their teenage years. That’s why it is important to spot the signs early, get early diagnosis and appropriate treatment. What’s the difference between a ‘typical teen’ and one who’s really suffering? Tardiness, increased aggression, lapse in concentration, withdrawal from social groups and over anxious behaviour should all throw up red flags. If these symptoms are frequent, you should be referring your student to someone in the medical field.

What’s your role?

The majority of mental health problems seen in teens include (but aren’t limited to): mood & anxiety disorders, psychotic disorders and disruptive behavioural disorders. While only mental health professionals can diagnose these disorders, students must be referred to even receive diagnosis. As a teacher, you’ll spend a huge about of time with your students and will be able to spot signs and changes in behaviour.


(Source: YouGov)

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