Students in Distress (Part II)

Stress, anxiety, depression… The life of a student isn’t all rest and relaxation. Their mental health can be precarious. It’s a phenomenon that worries professors and doctors more and more. It’s talked about a lot in universities, and elsewhere.

By Charlotte Robec

Camille, 18, is in the first year of her bachelor’s degree in biomedical sciences at the Université de Montréal. She admits having a lot of problems, most notably due to her studies. She recounts having had several panic attacks before exams, and questioning her future during these periods.

She admits that when relaxing with friends she sometimes turned towards alcohol and cannabis in order to unwind and better handle the stress generated by university. She also considered taking stronger drugs like Ritalin, but ended up settling for milder stimulants such as coffee.

This phenomenon doesn’t stop at the Canadian border. Constance, 19, is a first year medical student in France, taking a second try at that first year. She also recounts experiencing periods of extreme stress.

Before each semester’s exams, she finds herself confronted with panic attacks. She explains that “it takes great mental strength to succeed in giving it your all during a defined, brief time period for a decisive test that you’ve been studying for for a long time.”

She has already come close to being prescribed antidepressants – not for problems related to depression, but to deal with her stress. In the end she didn’t do it, preferring to manage her stress with natural techniques such as sleep, meditation, breathing exercises, and sports.

Sadly, there is no magic technique to get rid of stress. But taking breaks, meditating, and, if needed, medication, can be of great help, especially for young students.

Measures taken by educational institutions can also help.

At the Université de Montréal (UdeM), several initiatives have been put in place to aid those in need. The Sentinelles (sentries) program, for example, consists in making sure that in each administrative unit there is at least one member of personnel ready to lend an ear to a student in distress. Let us hope that the different projects and resources put in place in post-secondary institutions can lend real assistance.

First seen in Reflet de Société, Vol. 27, no. 1, printemps (spring) 2019, pages 16-17

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