It is neither an exaggeration nor is it alarmist to claim that there is a mental health crisis today facing university students. GEORGE GRIMA, a communications student and content manager for The Third Eye, a media organisation run by
university students, speaks out on how mental health issues have become a growing problem among students and academics.

Mental Illnesses are trending, especially amongst students, and we are becoming less and less sensitive to their actual gravity. We have all seen and laughed at memes about depression and anxiety. Then we proceeded to screech “THAT POST IS SO ME. I CAN RELATE SO MUCH HAHA” – but 9 out of 10 times we really could not. Those that can relate, on the other hand, laugh in denial and try to convince themselves that their dark
thoughts and sleepless nights will be short-lived. Nowadays, words like ‘depressed’, ‘stressed’ and ‘anxiety’ have become staples in the vocabulary students use to recount their day-to-day experience at university. Being a student myself, I tend to question why this is the vocabulary we choose to rely on to describe such a momentous experience in our adult life. That said, what is the point of spending years trying so forcefully to excel in our profession – only to come out the other end with an anxiety disorder, clinical depression and a piece of paper? Obviously, this is not the case with everyone, but the majority of students have dealt with excessive stress, symptoms of depression and severe
anxiety at moments throughout their course.

Our psychological pitfalls and plunders throughout our university life should be rightly accredited to stress. Stress is no new concept to students at this point in their education – however, as we reach the pinnacle of our student lives, so does our stress. With each exam and assignment, we ask ourselves – could this get any harder? We then find ourselves
answering our own question the following semester: yes, yes it can. Academic demands and exam anxiety are undoubtedly the main culprits for long-term stress amongst students. Aside from the fact that the workload multiplies and continues to snowball
with each year after Sixth form, university students are particularly pressured to do better just because we are studying what we want. So, if what you want to study happens to be a challenging discipline, you are still expected to get the As you used to get in secondary school regardless.

In order to get those good grades, all you have to do is take note of every word the lecturer says, read seven books of roughly 500 pages each, and then sit down for the exam to find that nothing you studied came out. That way, all the stress that built up before the exam culminates in a mild depression and an existential crisis! Students are fully independent at university, to the point that lectures seem to be merely supplementary to what actually needs to be covered from books and intensively researched online. This situation puts more pressure on students since we have to organise what needs to be done for every class and prepare it accordingly so as to make it to the next year. Between the all-nighters, three-hour lectures and excessive reading, some sort of sleep
schedule and a social life too, that is.

University can be pretty time-consuming, but since life extends beyond the quad, students also have to juggle a social life and sometimes a part-time job, when the stipend does not suffice. All this contributes to accumulating stress especially when we do not find enough time for ourselves, not even to sleep. Students tend to dismiss the importance of sleep
and substitute it with coffee creamer. We brag about our all-nighters and how our bloodstream is mostly coffee and Red Bull, to the extent that sleep disorders are normalised, even praised in student life. However, denying ourselves sleep to get more work done is counterproductive, since we are compromising our mental health and academic performance in the process.

The more we stress and overwork ourselves trying to keep up with deadlines and ace exams, the more we cultivate feelings of insecurity, anxiety and depression. However, when faced with these feelings, students do not seek help; but rather, we normalise
our disorders and hide behind memes, claiming that we are only joking. University has maintained silence on mental health issues amongst students. Yes, we are all conscious of mental health and how important it is to look for help. Yes, we all know what the symptoms are and we have all dealt with those same symptoms. But no, we have never sought for help from counsellors. Why not? What if our dark thoughts and sleepless nights are not short-lived? Confide in friends, family, or counsellors – share what is bothering you, however trivial or serious it may be. You are not weak for sharing your truth, but rather,
you were brave enough to admit it.

GEORGE GRIMA ( The Third Eye )

© 2018 – VIDA Magazine