The hostels of my university, Apeejay Stya University in Sohna, have a disturbing reason for why the girls’ hostel has balconies, while the boys’ hostel doesn’t. According to students, back when the university was only an engineering college, a number of male hostellers used the balconies as a means to commit suicide. I still don’t know if that is 100% factual, however, this makes me think of the immense stress college students find themselves dealing with.
As a college student, myself, this was quite relatable for me, and I decided to speak with my peers and do some research on some prime reasons that can cause depression, stress and anxiety among college students.
One of the major key stress and anxiety causes for college students is being at the university itself. The diversity in people, cultures, and experiences can sometimes be an overload for a student coming from a different background, state or country. It’s even more difficult because many students also find themselves physically cut-off from their support systems and comfort zones, and in a new environment with its own rules and regulations. As soon as you are in college you are expected to be apt and responsible for all your everyday needs such as laundry, feeding, health, bank transactions, formal applications etc. Realising your inadequacies and limitations could result in crippling anxiety and depression.
Knowing who you are, what you believe and where you belong is an integral part of the university experience. And in most cases, it is a tasking process/ journey because it involves pushing one’s mental, emotional and spiritual limits. The exposure to different people, cultures and ideologies challenges one’s prior understanding of the world as well as their familiar beliefs. This can cause a feeling of isolation in students and in some cases, can even result in an identity crisis. The enormity of these questions and their possible answers, weighs on many students as they feel out of place while on this journey. There is also the big issue of fitting in with peers, which many students have to bend over backwards to achieve.
India’s rigid academic structure and the pressure that exams can put on students needs no introduction. The fact that the system forces you to put too much pressure on yourself, with little to no emotional help, is a feeling all college students know too well. We compete with one another for higher academic grades because our livelihoods depend on it (“Placement nahin hua toh?”). I was constantly under pressure because I was worried that I wasn’t doing enough with my time. This forced me and many of my friends to take up one too many classes, join numerous clubs (that require a lot of energy and time), and look for part-time jobs either to better our resumes or to earn money. Not to mention the pressure of also having an active social life which means going to parties, travelling, maintaining healthy relationships and keeping in touch with those you left at home.
No matter how close and stable your family is, being far away can be strenuous to your relationship with them. Students face parental pressure to perform better and to follow in their cultural/spiritual/ideological footprint which often, we are not able to do, or just don’t want to do! There is also the pressure that comes from home because of unforeseen events i.e. death or illness etc. which can affect the psyche of the student monumentally.
The financial pressure on college students is ridiculous. Coming from a middle-class family means that the bulk of your parents’ savings is going into your higher education, which means failing or not performing well is the same as pouring their money, life’s work and dreams down the drain. The increase in college tuition is becoming more and more rapid, and families are having a harder time keeping up with the inflation. Financial worry leaves many students stressed, anxious and often depressed because they have to think about the strain money has on their lives as well as the tension it leaves on their families. Many students also find themselves studying courses they have no interest in because of the future financial benefits. This leaves the student stressed/mentally ill in college as well as after.
College life is often regarded as the best part of our lives but the truth is it can also be the most stressful. Understanding that stress is a natural part of the experience can be comforting as well as a motivator to teach students the skills required to minimise the stress and combat it in instances where it can’t be controlled.