Stress and pressure are the concrete problems teenagers like me face in today’s relentless world. From teachers, parents, wider family/friends but most of all OURSELVES. With the constant hammering we receive to be achieving those A’s to A*s throughout our academia, from GCSE through to A-levels. The stress is inevitable.
The next obstacle thrust in our face is finding the right post 16 destination; the glorification on going to the top university honestly does my head in! The repetitive speeches from overly domineering parents exclaiming, “the sky is the limit”, if you walk out with a degree from the most highly prestigious of places, Oxford or Cambridge. One of my worst experiences of this pressure was during my summer exams. With all my work and responsibilities mounting up, I had set ridiculously high expectations after expectations for myself. I found that I was falling deeper and deeper into a pit, ignoring the crying of my mind telling me to stop overworking! As a result, I had lost my true perception of reality and having hit rock bottom, I totally burned out. This had lead me to question, it’s no wonder why mental health has plummeted at such a young age! Thus, had sparked my interest to enlighten people from all ages, on the considerable decline in mental health on the youths of today.
Over the last two to three decades there has been a huge shift in the education system from one that catered to the elite to one that has opened its doors to everyone over the age of 16. In turn that means degrees are easily available which increases the number of people applying for jobs. These figures include students who would have opted for vocational training but, as the types of industry requiring apprentices are declining, students are now looking elsewhere. A degree is no longer a guarantee to walk into a job, competition is far greater and yet another stress to have to contend with.
Adolescents today are known as the ‘snowflake’ generation, more fragile, less resilient and more overwhelmed than their parents were when they were growing up. Deemed spoiled or mollycoddled or cosseted by society, for being too emotionally vulnerable to cope with views that challenge our own. But a closer look paints a far more heart-breaking portrait of why young people are suffering. Anxiety and depression stemming from the strain within the academic system, have been on the rise since 2012. About 30% of girls and 20% of boys totalling 6.3 million teens have had an anxiety disorder, according to data from the National Institute of Mental Health.This goes to show if it was in societies mind to create an environment to churn out really angsty people, they’ve done it.
Being a teenager today is a draining full-time job that includes doing schoolwork, managing a social-media identity and fretting about career, climate change, sexism, racism–you name it. We are in a cauldron of stimulus that we cannot escape, following our every move like a shadow that never leaves you. We are deprived of the independence to make our own decisions and the ability to be able to make time for ourselves for reflection, a vital ingredient for self-love. We may hold up a façade of appearing calm on the outside, but on the inside the levels of coercion are like demons trying to consume us. Our emotions rapidly begin to bubble over, coming to a breaking point, searching in every crook and every cranny to find answers, to why we are experiencing this much pain so early on in our lives? Is life really meant to be so work orientated? Can we get any enjoyment out of the simplest things in life? Like living in the moment, perhaps having some “Sunday night tosh and nonsense”, I say. It appears society has officially succeeded in snatching this part of our identities from us.
There are closed doors needing to be opened on the broader psychological issues that stem from this, a spectrum of angst that plagues 21st century teens. Could a gap year be the answer to resolving the mental health crisis?
A year between A-levels and university can provide teens with the opportunity to gain personal skills such as, resilience, confidence, and focus. These experiences can help students re-evaluate how they understand themselves and the world around them. Clearing their minds off burdening thoughts and fully cleansing their souls of any negativity, delving into a new world of great opportunities and seeing where these take them. Whether that be travelling, discovering a new hobby or doing something as completely frivolous as volunteering at a theme park. It’s all about discovering their lost identity, about redefining who they truly are. It is to be unchained by societies control and listening to their own inner spirit, soaring wild and free like a bird.
OVER TO YOU
Upon learning of how much the anxieties of school can negatively affect the mental health of adolescents, I would love to answer any questions that parents, or children may have.
In the next issue, I will be discussing the major role that social media plays on the mental health of young adults.
By Symran Lyall