In today’s blog post we address a common complaint,’school gives me anxiety and depression’. We take a look into the various changes that have taken place in the school settings in the recent times. We then move to the most common causes of anxiety and depression in school students. After this, we take into account the effect of these stressors on the school children by looking into the details of the anxiety and depression it causes. Lastly we take into account some methods that can be implemented on the school level to decrease the child’s vulnerability to develop anxiety and depression.
School Gives Me Anxiety and Depression
Schools today have become technologically and educationally advanced in order to help make the students capable enough to deal with the different challenges that they may encounter later in their professional life. However, the increase of advancement in the educational sector has also led to a steady rise in the number of students experiencing anxiety and depression.
Change, even if for the better, can bring in its own difficulties and the current educational scenario presents the outcome of these difficulties in the form of anxiety, depression, and other mental and physical health problems.
Changes in the school setup in recent times
There has been significant changes in the functioning of the schools in recent times across the world. Schools are no longer local, but have become global. Let us take a look at some of the changes in the school setup:
- Changes in the infrastructure:
Over the last five years, there have been massive changes in the infrastructure of the schools with the inclusion of facilities such as smartboards, overhead projectors, learning via tablets and smartphones, digital textbooks and audiobooks. These facilities have been useful in supplementing the traditional chalk and board method and have helped in developing the creativity and imagination of the students.
- Introduction of new subjects:
The ever changing world requires the students to learn new things and update the old learnings. This has led to the introduction of several new subjects in the schools, in addition to the traditional subjects. This has provided a wide canvas for students to learn and gain exposure to new knowledge.
- Application based learning:
The education system is no longer based on learning exclusively the theory of all the issues, but also actively focuses on practical applications and gaining practical knowledge of the subjects. This has also made education more engaging, fun and outcome oriented. It helps in optimising the learning and helps in gaining more clarity on the concepts.
- Online learning:
The pandemic has given rise to new ways of learning, in the form of online learning and lectures. This has also given many of the foreign schools and learning sources to collaborate with the current schools and introduce several courses to add value to learning. The quality of learning provided, the flexibility and self paced nature of learning has made this method popular.
A latest addition to this are the learning apps which also provide learning on-the go. These resources are the latest additions into the forum of online learning.
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- Different methods of assessments:
Changes in the education system has also brought about a change in the method of assessment. Various new methods of assessments include blog writing, outreach programs, field trips, work experience sessions, creating short films for the purpose of learning, surveys and research. These methods of assessment have made the process enjoyable and has also ensured that whatever has been taught has been conceptually learnt and appropriately integrated.
- Equal preference to vocational learning:
Schools now also give equal attention and acceptance for vocational learning which is more skill based, than theory based and requires hands on training and practice. Many schools now engage in the process of identifying students for vocational training and have dedicated classrooms, lecture timings,equipment and teachers to train the students in different vocations.
Common causes of anxiety and depression in school students:
Change of any kind, positive or negative, leads to a certain amount of stress as getting acquainted to the changes and new ways of learning requires time and skill building. Let us take a look at some of the common stressors that are induced in the school setup.
- Variety in the assessments:
Despite the fact that the new method of assessments are interesting and innovative in nature, they can be extremely rigorous and demanding. These assessments require the students to work for longer hours, collect information and make presentations. For very specific projects such as blog writing or video making, the students have to go to different locations to shoot and gather information. This is not only time consuming, but also can be tiring and stressful for the students.
- Online learning:
As the students are still getting acquainted with online and allied methods of learning, keeping up with the demands of these learnings can be stressful. Additionally, as the learning has now become online, the students save committing time. This has led to them being given additional work, assignments, courses that they have to complete for extra credit. This can become stressful not only mentally, but also physically as the students have to spend inordinate hours on the laptop/phone, increasing their screen time and giving them very little downtime.
They may also miss out on one-to-one learning which happens in contact classes, which may create a difficulty in conceptual understanding, adding to the stress.
- Lack of resources:
Lack of resources, especially for online learning can be a cause of stress and anxiety. Inability to acquire devices for online learning can become a hassle for some students. Also for students living in remote areas, this can serve as an obstacle to gain quality education.
- Extensive competition:
Schools have become competitive with respect to the grades and the performance of the students.Students have to constantly upgrade their performance in academics and in extracurricular activities. This puts a pressure to remain perfect at everything and can be a precipitating factor for depression and anxiety.
An addition to this can be the pressure to excel that is put forth by the parents. Parents may put additional pressure on the child to excel and to maintain their school performance. Failure at school is often met by punishments and discouragement and this can add to the performance anxiety of the students.
- Peer pressure and bullying:
Peer pressure is an additional source of anxiety and depression in the school settings. The pressure to be most popular, have maximum likes on social media, pressure to fit in, to be popular, to be independent adds to the existing levels of stress.
In addition to peer pressure, bullying can also be extremely hampering to the students and can hamper their self-esteem, question their sense of self worth and in extreme cases push the students towards self-harm.
- Unsupportive teachers:
It is suggested that teachers are a source of knowledge and support for the students in schools. They help the students with their academics, motivate them to do better in class and in extracurricular activities. However, in some cases, lack of support from the teacher, or punishments given by the teachers can have an adverse impact because of which the child may experience anxiety and show depressive symptoms.
Impact of the anxiety and depression induced by school settings:
- Because of the high pressure and adverse conditions at school, children often develop ‘exam anxiety’ wherein they experience anxiety and palpitations before the examinations due to extreme concern for their marks and their performance in exams.
Several students find it difficult to sleep, eat well and take care of the regular routine at the time of the exams. They may become too rigid with respect to their study schedule, not take enough brakes and may experience burn-out like symptoms.
- Students may also experience somatic symptoms of their anxiety. Going to school can be quite a difficult task for a lot of students due to the fear of a particular teacher, a bully, assignments or peers and this may get manifested in the form of physical pain such as headache, pain in the limbs, stomachaches,ulcers as well as encopresis and enuresis.
- Their symptoms of depression can get manifested by getting irritated easily, getting into fights at school, bunking school, refusal to go to school, crying uncontrollably, sudden drop in academic performance, not eating well and excessive sleeping.
- Their depressive symptoms can also be manifested by getting into arguments with teachers and seniors, rebellious behaviour, lack of interest in extracurricular activities, and missing school for several days at a stretch.
- If the depression in the child may have been caused due to bullying or peer pressure, the child is likely to engage in self-harm by slitting the wrist, the foot or making cut marks on the hand. Children typically try to hide these marks from the parents and teachers.
- Lastly, if the children have to deal with an unsupportive teacher, the internalisation of the criticism meted out by the teacher can also be a cause of depressive symptoms in the child.
Addressing anxiety and depression in students at school level:
Because the children spend majority of their time at school, depression and anxiety induced by school can be dealt with in the same setting with the help of the following considerations:
- Dealing with bullying:
It is imperative for schools to deal with bullying and the consequences of bullying as an institution. Schools need to have strict rules and penalties against bullies as well as safety measures to protect the victims. Additionally, the teachers and other staff should be sensitised about the same.
- Making assessments more flexible:
Despite the diversity and value addition that the assessments provide, they are one of the major contributors of depression and anxiety amongst school students. Making the assessments more flexible by spacing them out, making them less rigorous and conducting them by taking into consideration the capacity and capabilities of the child can help the children benefit from those and also ensure that the knowledge base is enriched.
- Teacher and students’ sensitisation:
Because the students spend a major time with the teachers at school, teachers should be trained in identifying signs of depression and anxiety in the students so as to facilitate intervention as early as possible. Additionally, the students should also be sensitized in identification of anxiety and depression in their peers. Further, they should also be educated about the negative consequences of bullying and peer pressure.
- Introducing mental health in schools:
Introduction of the ideas and concepts of mental health can be extremely helpful as the students, from a young age will become sensitive and aware of the concepts and the fundamental principles of mental health, which will be of a benefit in the long run.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Why does school work give me anxiety?
School work can give the student anxiety which can be related to the fear of being graded by the school, the fear of being punished for mistakes. The child can also have anxiety with respect to keeping up with the grades at school.
Can anxiety affect grades?
Anxiety can have a negative impact on all students. Students with anxiety tend to show lower levels of academic performance, self-efficacy, and self-concept.
Does homework cause depression?
Homework can be beneficial as well as detrimental for the child, if given in an excessive amount. Excessive amounts of homework can lead to stress, depression, lack of sleep, anxiety. It also makes the child give up extracurriculars.
Is Test Anxiety a mental illness?
Test anxiety can become an illness if it goes to the extent of being a social phobia and causes significant impairment.
Is peer pressure good or bad?
Peer pressure is not always a bad thing. Positive peer pressure can act as a support in difficult times, however, if peer pressure is making the child uncomfortable, it can be labelled as negative.
In today’s blog post we addressed a common complaint,’school gives me anxiety and depression’. We looked into the various changes that have taken place in the school settings in the recent times. We then moved to the most common causes of anxiety and depression in school students. After this we took into account the effect of these stressors on the school children by looking into the details of the anxiety and depression it causes. Lastly we took into account some methods that can be implemented on the school level to decrease the child’s vulnerability to develop anxiety and depression.
I hope the blog post was able to help in understanding the time of anxiety and depression in students when induced due to the school situation. Please feel free to drop any queries or comments.