College life, although meant to be carefree and lively, can be a stressful time for any student. There are multiple aspects of life to be balanced such as work, studies, family relations and friendships. There is an added pressure of taking responsibilities and managing relationships. And the burden of figuring out what you want to do for the rest of your life can lead to overwhelming anxiety. A lot of students are able to deal with all of these struggles. Many are not. While certain levels of stress are beneficial and encourage us to work harder and do better, moving towards productivity, an excessive level of stress can interfere with our daily lives. For students, especially those in college, this anxiety becomes a permanent part of their lives, causing obstacles in normal social and professional life and overpowering all other emotions.
For first year students, being in the college itself is a cause of stress. A lot of students move to different states for higher education. Some of these students come from a very different social background and fitting into metropolitan cities comes as a shock. Being around so many other students, of different social and economic backgrounds can become a hassle. Additionally, the feeling of being away from home is intensified in hostel and PG life where everyday tasks are a struggle and often, health takes a major toll.
Up until high school, due to the many flaws in our education system, students study a variety of subjects but are not expected to have an exclusive, in-depth understanding of any of them. In college, however, once they choose their major, they enter an intellectual academic space. They are surrounded by professors and peers who force the students to then explore areas and push boundaries that they might not necessarily be comfortable with. It can result in a feeling of inadequacy and low self-esteem. Additionally, there is the pressure of new social relationships, managing money, performing well in exams and presenting oneself as someone who is socially acceptable by peers.
When all of this results in anxiety disorders, we see a number of things that are missing in Indian universities, which can help students combat these issues. Firstly, awareness and knowledge about choosing their college major can help them avoid a lot of stress related to studies as they will be better qualified to choose a degree they are capable of finishing. Once high school ends, parents have a very limited role in student’s college lives and while that helps them become better decision makers, there is a need for parent counselling in terms of how they can support their children who go and study away from home. Various counsellors should be available in all colleges to help students understand that anxiety disorders are something completely normal and do need to be worked upon, instead of being ignored.
There is a major lack of awareness and understanding about mental health in India, leading to ignorance regarding even common mental issues like anxiety. This ignorance not only leads to an increase in anxiety disorders, but also leads to growth of more complex and fatal mental issues such as depression. There is an immense need to develop an environment which is open and accepting and that allows students to openly discuss their fears and struggles.