Success or Failure? Academic Pressure

Written by: Pansiluni Hasanjana Weerawansa 

In a world that’s relentlessly on the move, where productivity is praised above all else, the pressure to excel in academics has never been higher. Students find themselves navigating a maze of assignments, exams, and extracurricular activities, all while trying to maintain a facade of unwavering strength. In the relentless pursuit of academic success, the importance of mental health is often overlooked or, worse yet, stigmatised. Instead of acknowledging mental health as valid medical issues that require professional help, they are frequently perceived as personal deficiencies or indications of vulnerability. As a result, individuals dealing with psychological distress face isolation, bias, and diminished educational and career opportunities. 

Consider a bustling college campus, with students hurrying to classes and engaging in countless discussions – a place that symbolises the quest for knowledge and academic achievement. However, beneath this exterior, an unseen struggle is taking place, hidden behind the masks of smiles and achievements. Students, regardless of their accomplishments, often grapple with inner struggles that jeopardise their educational path. 

In recent years, the prevalence of mental health concerns among students has surged to concerning levels. The relentless pressure to excel academically, combined with the inherent challenges of personal growth and development, has created an environment ripe for the emergence of anxiety, depression, and various other mental health disorders. However, what’s even more distressing is the prevailing culture of silence that envelops many students, driven by the deeply ingrained fear of societal judgement that surrounds seeking help for mental health issues. 

Instead of being regarded as a fundamental component of overall well-being, mental health is often dismissed or, worse still, stigmatised within the confines of academic circles. This stigma manifests in a multitude of ways, ranging from disparaging remarks and the perpetuation of harmful stereotypes to the establishment of systemic obstacles that impede individuals from accessing the crucial care they require. 

A particularly pervasive misconception is the notion that seeking assistance for mental health concerns equates to admitting vulnerability or weakness. This erroneous belief frequently serves as a formidable barrier, deterring students from reaching out to qualified counsellors or therapists when their need for support is most acute. Consequently, these students attempt to navigate their mental health struggles in solitude, a choice that often exacerbates their conditions, subsequently leading to a decline in academic performance. 

Furthermore, students may fear the judgement and discrimination they could face if their mental health issues become public knowledge. This fear of discrimination can hinder their willingness to disclose their struggles to professors, peers, or academic advisors, resulting in a lack of understanding and accommodation. 

The intricate interplay between mental well-being and academic achievement cannot be denied. A student’s mental health profoundly impacts their capacity to concentrate, learn, and excel in their studies. When mental health takes a hit, the pursuit of academic success often transforms into an arduous uphill battle. 

Consider a scenario where a student grapples with severe anxiety. Mundane tasks like attending classes, taking exams, or engaging in group discussions can morph into insurmountable challenges. This heightened anxiety often results in increased absenteeism, diminished focus, and dwindling motivation, ultimately casting a shadow over their academic performance. 

Depression, another prevalent mental health concern among students, drains their vitality and enthusiasm. A perpetual sense of sadness, coupled with a disinterest in academic pursuits, often leads to subpar academic performance. 

To mitigate academic stress and the resulting mental health concerns, a comprehensive approach involving various stakeholders is essential. Here are four effective methods to tackle this issue: 

1. It is imperative for educational institutions to re-examine their curriculum and evaluation methods to mitigate the excessive academic pressures. Promoting a more reasonable approach to education, one that values not only academic accomplishments but also personal well-being, can assist students in more effectively handling stress. 

2. The incorporation of mental health education into the curriculum is crucial. Mental health is rarely brought up in classrooms and the vast majority of students are oblivious and unable to cope with their mental issues. Teaching students about stress management, coping techniques, and the significance of seeking assistance when necessary can empower them to actively manage their mental health. 

3. Offering flexible deadlines and being supportive to students can also be useful. For example, extended deadlines, tutoring services, and access to academic counselling allow students to seek aid when they encounter academic challenges without feeling overwhelmed. 

4. Establishing peer mentorship programs, where senior/trained students provide guidance and assistance to their peers facing academic obstacles or mental health issues, can cultivate a nurturing environment conducive to seeking help and sharing experiences. 

Implementing these strategies enables educational institutions to prioritise both academic achievement and mental well-being. This shift can alleviate the stressors contributing to students’ mental health challenges. Instead of perpetuating a culture that places academic accomplishments above well-being, it’s time for a reevaluation of our values. Academic institutions should aim to create an environment where students can excel academically and thrive emotionally, acknowledging that mental health struggles can impact anyone, irrespective of their accomplishments. 

Rather than stigmatising those seeking assistance, we should commend their courage. In doing so, we can cultivate a society where academic success and mental well-being go hand in hand, empowering individuals to realise their full potential. 

In summary, students grappling with mental health issues while pursuing academic success should not bear their burdens in silence. We must acknowledge the significance of mental health in both personal and academic well-being, eradicating the stigma associated with it. By embracing this perspective, we can wholeheartedly support students in their educational journey and aid them in achieving the success they rightly deserve.