They have always called me brilliant. Being the best in class, I have heard my teachers' and parents' prophecies continuously about my wonderful university years and a fantastic job I will get after. But there was something they never told me. Nobody warned me about the unbearable pressure I would meet at the University of my dream.
I was no longer a brilliant school graduate. At the university, the definition of the word "gifted" acquired an entirely different meaning. Now my knowledge wasn`t enough anymore to become the best. The competition between the students became a real challenge for me.
Six months after I entered the university, I found myself being nervous, unable to sleep well, irritable, feeling the pangs of conscience because of every minute of rest. Neither parents nor friends could communicate with me in a usual way. I became a different person, a person I've never wanted to be. But I have never been alone in the fight against university pressure.
Studies show that 48% of male and 67% of female students experience stress trying to cope with the newly appeared difficulties of student life.
All the universities put efforts to build support systems designed to help students to fight against university pressure and maintain mental health in college. But still, most of them fail to engage the professors in out-of-classroom mentorship. This problem is essential, since 91% of female students right after their transition to university face with the stress they cannot cope with without any help. According to the same survey, young men are also not stress resistant enough. 82% of them struggle the same problem. These students feel like a small fish in a big pond. These young people either are praised or criticized. Nobody sympathizes with them. Under such circumstances, their worldview becomes black and white. Being under such pressure, many students are at the risk of the severe mental disorder.
What are the threats to the college student mental health? According to the student survey, respondents themselves have mentioned the following ones:
- 59% - the stress of studying;
- 44% - loneliness/feeling isolated;
- 37% - balancing work with the study;
- 36% - financial difficulties;
- 33% - the pace of student life;
- 22% - living independently.
These impressive figures, as well as personal experience, led some people to explore this problem more deeply and find a solution.
"The Death of Little Miss Perfect"
One of the main issues causing problems with the mental health of college students is perfectionism. The perfectionist, so-called "Little Miss Perfect", is known to be a good student. She received only A`s at school and got amazingly anxious getting a B. Have you ever seen such girls? Or maybe you even are one of them?
How "Little Miss Perfect" feels at university? Is she happy or proud? No, she feels insecure and fearful. First, perfectionism undermines self-esteem, and, in the long last, performance. "Unhappy people can`t learn anything", says the launcher of "The Death of Little Miss Perfect" initiative Judith Carlisle. What is her project about?
Being the headteacher of the Oxford High School, Mrs. Carlisle saw all the consequences of the students' wrong attitude toward themselves and their failures. Her team has done many things to destroy perfectionism in students` mind. What effective methods did she find?
Students can not use mobile phones during school trips. Such a way the school teaches them to "live in the moment", without being distracted by the virtual world. In classrooms, there are lots of posters that encourage pupils not to give up. Also, girls are told about the dangers inherent in the propensity for perfectionism.
Mrs. Carlisle`s key phrases are the next: "let it go", "you don`t have to be first", "nobody is perfect", "it`s good enough", "stay safe" and "have a go". Students adopt these phrases. Thus, their thinking becomes more positive, over time. Her students know, that exams don't determine who they are - they just show what they did on that particular day. Such way of thinking has become a healing for lots of students.
How Can Parents Help
Sometimes the parents themselves become the root of the problem because of their high expectations. From early childhood, the parents explain to their child that to be successful, it is essential to study well. Nothing will work out unless you do work a lot. The child starts thinking that his importance in his parents` eyes depends on how successful he is at school. It's the parents who create this "Little Miss Perfect". Therefore, in order to destroy it, parents` help is also necessary. It seems, that parents themselves often have another point of view. Many parents think that the student should be obsessed with his grades. It seems to them that if you think another way you lower the study standards for your child. It is important for parents to understand that their children will be able to achieve greater results and be much happier only after getting rid of perfectionism in their minds.
Be attentive to your child. Psychologists advise if you notice something from the list above, immediately talk to a specialist:
- Feeling extremely sad or unmotivated during the last two weeks.
- Changes in eating habits.
- Making plans to harm or kill somebody.
- Alcohol abuse or using drugs.
- Changes in the way of life (isolation).
- The child is unable to concentrate.
- Childs behavior can cause harm either to him or somebody else.
- Attacks of overwhelming fear.
- Changes in sleeping habits.
- Mood changes that create problems in relationships.
Be active. Fight for your child. Cooperate with mental health counselors and the university. Connect with other families with the same health issues.
Elite University Problem?
Does this problem concern only the major universities? The practice shows the opposite. Students across all universities have mental health disorders. They just seem to be more concentrated at major colleges where the pressure is the greatest. No matter what college the one would enter, his friends and family would be left at home, as well as everybody who had ever supported him. That`s why the mental health activities for college students are essential to be held in all colleges all over the country.
Usually, students who managed to cope with their mental problems do not regret their choice of the university. Because the problem is not in higher education itself. It lies in the absence of adequate support systems. Students need the help of mental health counselors. College should take care not only of their presence on campus and qualifications but also it should be confident in counselors` desire to help students to achieve the right attitude towards studying and their failures.
I`ve received help and have overcome my problem. Two years ago I successfully graduated from the university and almost forgot about those terrible months when negative feelings had overwhelmed me day after day. The only advice I can give is following: do not be afraid to seek help. Mental health counselors will not only help you to find the root of your issue but also tear up the vicious circle of your concerns.