October 10 is observed as World Mental Health Day. In India, with the sudden increase in cases of student suicides, exam induced anxiety, etc. one must come to terms with the fact that depression and anxiety in students is a reality.
As per a survey conducted by the National Council of Educational Research and Training, NCERT, around 81 percent of students in India has stated that their main source of anxiety and stress is caused due to academics.
Out of these, 49 percent of students stated that studies and academics cause them to experience anxiety and the remaining 28 percent reported high stress and anxiety levels during Exam and result season.
However, one must keep in mind, the prolonged levels of anxiety in students, if undiagnosed or ignored, can lead to a decline mental health of the student and cause other mental health disorders such as Depression.
American Psychological Association, APA defines anxiety as an “emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts, and physical changes like increased blood pressure.”
Depression is defined as a “negative affective state, ranging from unhappiness and discontent to an extreme feeling of sadness, pessimism, and despondency, that interferes with daily life,” as per the APA.
In the last few years, especially with the coming of the COVID-19 Pandemic, many students reported a sharp decline in mental health and reported to have anxiety attacks and even depressive episodes in some cases. Here are some markers that can help identify anxiety and depression in students.
World Mental Health Day 2022 – 5 Markers of Anxiety in Students
1. Emotional Changes - When a student is experiencing anxiety, a common indicator is emotional changes. They may feel uneasy, on edge or easily irritable. The student may also feel restless at times. Anxiety can even cause some students to act out. Some examples of emotional changes are - Constant worrying, overwhelming thoughts, irrational fears regarding everyday activities, low self-esteem, consistent nervousness, etc.
2. Disturbed Sleep Cycle - It is essential for students to get at least 8 to 10 hours of sleep every night to function properly. Anxiety often impacts sleeping habits which results in the child losing out on sleep as their thoughts, nightmares. On the other hand, if the child is sleeping much more than usual, that can also be a sign of declining mental health.
3. Physical Changes - Students, when showing anxiety may depict physical changes as well. Some students often report headaches, dizziness, upset stomachs, excessive sweating and more when they are feeling anxious.
4. Panic Attacks - While Panic Attacks are an indicator of panic disorder, some students may experience panic to a certain degree while some may not. If the student has shaky hands, tremors, excessive sweating, chest pain, has trouble breathing but appear physically fine, they may be experiencing a panic attack.
5. Assuming the worst - Another sign of anxiety in students is assumption of the worst. Anxiety may cause students to have consistent negative thoughts, which may result in them always assuming the worst-case scenario. Academic stress, result stress and examinations can also act as potential triggers for such students as they might think they will fail or not perform well.
Many schools, colleges and other education institutions have set guidelines that work towards reaching out to students and helping them manage their stress and improve their mental health. As we celebrate the 30th World Mental Health Day, let’s remind each other to be kind.