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I’ve seen how anxiety can impact a person’s daily life. Students are currently experiencing anxiety on a significant scale, particularly in their post-secondary school lives. The transition from grade school to independent living at university or college, financial concerns, compounded with exam pressure and high self and parental expectations to succeed, can be particularly stressful for most students.

Furthermore, the exceedingly strong competition with other students to enter post-graduate programs and for potential employment opportunities, can add to increased anxiety during the school year. At some point in their schooling, these increased pressures have been shown to diminish students’ self-esteem and wellbeing.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the reasons why anxiety is so prevalent amongst students, and what your institution can do to help solve the problem.

Rising costs

I remember a time when going to a post-secondary school was considered to be the norm. The rising cost of college and university tuition, however, has made it significantly difficult for students to afford post-secondary education. Tuition in recent years has skyrocketed, averaging $6,838 per year for a four-year Bachelor’s degree. If a student chooses to pursue a Masters or Ph.D., the cost increases significantly.

Additionally, the cost of rent in most major Canadian cities has climbed sharply, prohibiting many students from living away from home. Rent for one-bedroom apartments can range from $1,500 in a city like Montreal, to over $2,260 in Toronto. This range indicates that many students, particularly those pursing a Ph.D. or Masters, aren’t even able to afford to live in the city in which they’re studying.

So, in addition to dealing with the pressures of daily life, many students will have to contend with sizeable debt once they receive their degree or diploma. This is incredibly concerning for most students, as a typical Masters Program for some students can take decades to pay off. Currently, the prospect of debt and the pressure to pay it off are financial issues triggering anxiety in many of the students calling into our Clinical Response Centre.

The financial guidance available through Student Assistance Programs (SAP) can help students develop a strong foundation to tackle their student debt, offering tangible solutions and greater peace of mind. I highly recommend referring your students to these financial services, if they are feeling particularly anxious in regards to their debt or tuition costs.

It’s a juggling act

Information collected from our student usage data shows that as many as 40% of all students using our services experience challenges related to juggling their many responsibilities during the school year. Although schoolwork frequently takes precedence over other activities, many students find that they’re left trying to balance an increasing load of school projects in conjunction with family responsibilities, financial burdens, holding down a job, and maintaining a social life.

A lack of balance in a student’s life can sometimes result in the onset of an anxiety disorder if the problem isn’t managed effectively. I find that it’s absolutely crucial for students to strive for balance in their lives. Although school can demand most of their attention and focus, it’s important for students to develop strategies to achieve a level of work/life balance that’s right for them.

For example, we have found that when students purposely set aside some time during the week to do things that they enjoy, it helps them achieve a better sense of mental wellbeing. It also helps them achieve a better work/life balance overall.

Technology can be isolating

The technological advancements available to students today can offer new and innovative ways of tackling their workload. However, they can also create issues that are potentially hazardous to students’ mental health. This is especially true in terms of the “addictive” components of social media and other apps that increase screen time and limit face-to-face interactions.

Students who spend too much time with their smartphone or computer will often experience a sense of anxiety and loneliness associated with a lack of actual human interaction. Subsequently, they may also experience the psychological repercussions of increased screen time, including sleep disturbance and stress, both being contributing factors in chronic anxiety.

In addition to this, some students may also find that increased screen time can leave them open to the darker side of social media. Harassment and bullying online is an issue that affects millions of users, particularly students, every year, increasing the stress and anxiety already associated with social media use.

It’s imperative then, as an institution, to let students become more aware of the potential mental health hazards associated with smartphone over-usage and social media addiction. You can find out more about how social media can impact your students’ mental health in my previous blog.

Although many students will suffer from anxiety due to the financial, emotional, and technological burdens that they face, it’s essential that they know where they can to turn to when they need help. Demonstrating and promoting the value of their Student Assistance Program will help students become mindful of the fact that they’re not alone, and provide them with practical strategies and solutions to lead happier, healthier lives, both on and off campus.

For more information on how to better promote SAP services within your institution, speak to your SAP provider today.