Students in Distress (Part III)

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

When we think of students we most often think of young people age 18 to 25. But the student population is more diverse than that. Some are adults coming back to school, and their problems can be different. Many have to learn to reconcile student life and family life while finding themselves in a younger person’s environment, which isn’t always simple.

They also have to readapt to a scholastic environment they left behind years ago. All these factors make them susceptible to feeling uneasy.

Amélie, notably, went back to her journalism studies at the UdeM while raising a family. She says she feels a big difference between school semesters and off time: “I’m a lot more relaxed when I’m on vacation,” she says, “at least until a few days before I have to go back to courses – I get a bit nervous again. I’m also more available for my family, and generally in a better mood.”

She’s been diagnosed as suffering from generalized anxiety disorder, and she’s developed a few techniques to manage her angst. But she still has a hard time when she has a lot of very stressful things to do.

Exam time, the end of semester, is her toughest period. Every semester she looks forward to the last three or four weeks of courses with fear and trepidation. She confides that “life at home is a lot more difficult during those moments.”

After the birth of her daughter, Amélie suffered a post-partum depression. She went back to school a year later. She explains that she felt swamped by everything she had to accomplish. “I wanted to perform well everywhere,” she says, “in my personal life as well as at school.”

Her method of managing stress is to divide what she has to do into much smaller tasks. This gives her the impression of making progress. She also likes to head outdoors when it’s nice, and reflect calmly for a few minutes.

Her doctor has also prescribed her some anti-anxiety pills, which she takes in the rare event of a panic attack. She appreciates having these at her disposal should she need them.

She admits feeling a bit separated in age from the rest of the students, because their rhythm of life isn’t the same as hers. She’s managed to forge bonds with a few, but it’s impossible for her to go out and have a drink with them after class, or to actively participate in university life. Nonetheless, she says she expected that, and it’s no surprise.

For Amélie, juggling a family and studies is “a big challenge.” It’s sometimes tough on the financial front, or on the scheduling front with her kids. “But I love what I’m doing so much that it compensates. I feel a lot more flourishing since deciding to go back to school in a subject I’m passionate about,” she concludes.

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

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