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Coping with stress

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By Margaret Adolphus


"The best days of your life" was how time at university used to be described. It still can be, but the phrase better reflects a past era when people on a moderate income (usually provided by their parents or a state grant) did a moderate amount of academic work. Paid work was generally confined to the vacation, and there was ample time for socializing and getting involved in the extracurricular activities on offer.

But now, as perhaps never before, students are suffering from stress.

In the UK, for example, students can end up with debts of around £23,000 and find themselves working in paid employment for 30-40 hours a week on top of their study time (, 2010). They are also, according to a British Association for Counselling & Psychotherapy survey, experiencing increasingly severe mental problems, with 10 per cent of those seeking help being suicidal (, 2010).

In the US, an Associated Press-mtvU survey found that 85 per cent of respondents surveyed frequently experienced stress (MacDonald, 2009). In Australia, a study at the University of Queensland (The Australian, 2008) found that half the 384 students who attended the health service also had some degree of psychological disorder.

Nor is this a Western phenomenon. The Bollywood blockbuster, 3 Idiots described the enormous pressures on students at India's top engineering schools, where near perfect marks are needed to succeed, and where there is no such thing as an extension on compassionate grounds (Menardi, 2010).

And in China, some universities are setting up "psychological catharsis chambers" for students to offload their stress. Here, they can punch things, scream or write down their concerns (Hohua, 2009).