WA students' stress levels soar ahead of exams
MORE kids than ever are stressed about exams — not because of pressure from their parents or schools, but because of worrying about not being able to get a job.
The Sunday Times can reveal a survey of 1000 young people aged between 14 and 25, conducted by youth mental health service ReachOut, has shown an increase in “worrying levels” of exam stress, from 51.2 per cent in 2017 to 65.1 per cent in 2018.
Those citing being “very stressed” or “extremely stressed” have jumped from 20.6 per cent in 2017 to 34.5 per cent in 2018.
A total of 42.8 per cent of those surveyed said they were stressed in part by worrying about the future and 38.2 per cent were worried about getting a job in comparison with 29.6 per cent in 2017.
Traditional exam pressures such as parents, schools and access to university courses decreased over the same period.
Those young people who sought help from a mental health or medical professional rose from 15.5 per cent in 2017 to 30.5 per cent in 2018 and online searches for help rose from 5.2 per cent in 2017 to 13.6 per cent in 2018.
ReachOut chief executive Ashley De Silva said the research was worrying and the entire community needed to look for ways to decrease the growing trend.
“The concerns of young people are completely understandable and there are many more modern stressors popping up that just weren’t there previously,” Mr De Silva said. “The best thing young people stressed about exams can do is to get help and get help early.”
Determined to combat stress and anxiety in its students, Presbyterian Ladies’ College this year unveiled a $10.5 million wellbeing centre, named the PLC Lighthouse, which includes a gym, meditation facilities, art space and a recharge room where students can consult school psychologists.
PLC principal Kate Hadwen said the school was conscious that final-year exams were often a difficult time for students.
“Exams are stressful and sometimes anxiety can actually help you to perform better,” Dr Hadwen said. “The idea of not being stressed at all is unrealistic. The most important thing is for students to learn to manage their anxiety.”
PLC has set up bubble-blowing and puzzle stations outside of examination rooms to help students relax before their tests. Year 12 students Lizzie McLarty, Natalie Everett and Eliza Donaldson all admitted to feeling apprehensive about their upcoming exams but were more worried about getting into their preferred university courses than eventual careers.
“Obviously there are lots of pathways — most people know what they want to do or have an idea that they want to get into a specific course and I think it is quite concerning that you might not,” Natalie said.
Kids Helpline manager Tony Fitzgerald said more young people were calling the service worried about exams and predicted the helpline would have a 15 per cent increase in calls relating to exam stress by the end of the year.
“We want our kids to have a positive experience at school and for them to do well but that doesn’t mean we need to put undue pressure on them,” he said. “What happens in school is not the be-all and end-all, and if things don’t go well with their exam results there are so many other opportunities for them to take the career path they want.”
Students stressed about exams can visit reachout.com or call Kids Helpline for free on 1800551800.