Breaking stressful stigmas

Justine Davis, Contributing Writer

College is irrevocably damaging the mental health of students, and every party involved is allowing it to happen without a fight. 

It is seen in the dark, quiet corners of the library each night before the closing announcement crackles over the loudspeaker, and in the faces of students leaving exams.

There is a silent price for the education that we are striving for that is much more valuable than the tens of thousands of dollars we are paying in order for a shot at the coveted “American Dream.”

As a senior with a dwindling number of days until I will walk across the stage in front of my family and friends and be able to say ‘I made it,’ I ask: why does it have to be this way?

As a high school student, I was thrilled at the idea of ‘burning the midnight oil’ in the library, working in a cozy cubicle in order to accomplish the lofty goals I had set for myself. 

Four years later, I have seen numerous friends and peers reach, and surpass, clinical burn-out, cry over exam anxiety, shut down due to stress, and simply forego eating for an entire day because there isn’t enough time and it ranks low in importance on the to-do list. 

In order to protect current students, and those coming up behind us, we need to start having the conversation about why the academic aspect of college is so toxic. 

In no circumstances should individuals feel like they are running on a hamster wheel that is forever gaining speed with no end in sight.

One thing that desperately needs to be reevaluated is the societal pressure that is put on undergraduate students to complete their education in four years or less. 

Once we cease treating the title ‘fifth year’ as if it were the name Voldemort and we were in the “Harry Potter” world, students can begin to take a breath. 

The constant nagging reminder about failure of a class, or the general inability to maintain a high workload, may cost them the perception of being a ‘good’ student. 

It is also a detriment to the confidence and drive of the individuals that find themselves in similar situations. 

Although we may deny it, there is a bias against those who take longer than the allotted ‘acceptable’ timeframe to complete their schooling. This social mentality is adding nothing but negativity to an already stressful process.

Though there are counseling services available on campus, the use of them is often clouded in stigma and a perception of weakness. 

The conversation about mental health is becoming something that is more visible in the general public, but we, as a community, need to do a better job of looking out for one another. 

As the weeks pass and personal and academic stressors are introduced, there should be an understanding that help and support is available to anyone that needs it. 

Individuals with positions of influence (i.e., professors, administrators, organization executive boards, mentor program members, etc.) should make it a point to check in with their students, peers, colleagues, and friends. 

Regardless of field of study, year, or age, college is a stressful and tumultuous time for every single one of us. 

Once the pretenses of perfection and absence-from-hardship are dropped, each of us can begin to help the rest, leading to the healing of a culture that is slowly choking the enjoyment of learning out of all of us.

Justine is a senior English and Psychology double major and a contributing writer for The Voice.