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Why are students so stressed?

Wednesday, July 04, 2018

Tanya Vasunia, a psychologist at Mpower, talks to The Afternoon D&C reporter, Tanishka Sodhi about why students are so stressed, and why it is crucial for them to pay attention to their mental health

In the race to score good marks and get into the best colleges, our youth is forgetting to do something that’s crucial to their well being. Tanya Vasunia, psychologist at Mpower, a centre for mental health, tells us what that one thing is. “They’re forgetting to pause. All this rush, all this anxiety among students, it’s natural; it’s the nature of the beast. But you have to remember to breathe, and just pause for a few seconds. Look back and see how far you’ve made it. You’ve managed stressful situations before, there’s no reason you won’t now.”

Tanya, who is as passionate about her work as she is emphatic, tells us why it is important for schools and colleges to talk to students about stress and mental health. “The youth is more vulnerable now. I see a lot of students getting anxious about getting into colleges, managing work load and a new environment, and dealing with competition that is only increasing. Even students scoring phenomenally well don’t always get into the colleges of their choice. Some students have told me they feel like if they don’t get into a particular college, they’ll never become the professionals they want to be. That’s when I ask them to take a step back and think; is there ever just one way to reach a destination? Of course not -there are multiple ways. Find your plan B. We forget to tell our kids that there are always alternate ways- they make take longer, they may not be conventional, but if it gets you to your destination, how does it matter how you got there?”

The pressure on kids begins from a young age, with students in 7th standard starting preps for the board exams they are required to give 3 years later. Tanya tells us about the time a 7-year-old child told her, “This year I can have fun. But from next year my subjects will increase and I will have to get serious then.”

It makes one wonder- have we become more vulnerable to stress and mental health issues? Or are we just more open in talking about it, now? According to Tanya, it’s a combination of both. “Kids are definitely feeling the stress more, these days. As we develop as a country, the division between the socio-economic classes are becoming smaller. Opportunities are increasing, and kids understand the job market situation from a young age. They see the reality in our country, which has kids sleeping on the road, and they understand the importance of being successful. Also, India is slowly becoming a global citizen, which means our timelines are changing too. Family dynamics are also changing, with nuclear families becoming more of the norm in urban areas. Youngsters feel the urge to get independent, get their own spaces.”

“The urgent need to succeed is linked to pressure and stress, which is directly linked to mental health issues like anxiety and depression. Wanting to succeed is great, because it makes you see yourself in a positive light. But receiving gratification should not be limited to only academics. When our support system is limited to only school and home, which are often in tangent, problems arise.”

Talking about India’s obsession with celebrations, Tanya smiles and says, “We really do celebrate our successes-big and small. But in this process we forget to say that it’s okay to fail, too. We need to look at failure as a learning experience, rather than just failure. We are so worried about reaching the destination; we forget to enjoy the journey.”

Talking about how important it is for youngsters to talk to someone about what they are feeling, Tanya says, “We always try to solve our problems at home, first. This delay in getting help leads to the illness becoming chronic. We see a doctor immediately when we have a cold, or a physical illness, and we have to start doing the same for mental health issues. There is no shame in seeing a therapist anymore; in fact, it should be encouraged. Prioritise your mind.”

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