Mental health and University

The BBC wrote an article yesterday regarding the link between University and mental health.

Our education system in the UK is flawed before you even reach University. From the start of your SATs in Year 6, you’re pushed into the idea that your grades are all that matters. In my borough we had to do a separate test on top of our SATs before a secondary school decided whether to accept us or not. Then for the secondary school I specifically went to, we had to do another aptitude test so they could put us into “ability bands”.

What a great message you’re sending to eleven year olds.

Then it just continues throughout secondary school. You’re taught how to pass your SATs/GCSEs/A-Levels/BTECs to get straight A/A*’s, not taught with the intention of gaining knowledge and building passion for that subject. Your ability is based, not on your intellect, but your ability to regurgitate “recall” information in hoop jumping exams. At the end of the day a year (or twos) worth of work, is solely reflected on an exam result. That result then depends on whether/what post-16 qualification you take, which then depends on what University you go to/what course you do, which then affects your career/life.

And that’s all you’re ever reminded of. It’s no wonder students are terrified of failing, throughout their education, failure has never been an option. Then there’s the constant comparisons between students abilities. In Year 7 we got so fed up of our D&T teacher comparing us to one pupil in the class, that we collectively kicked up a stink one period until she allowed us to voice how wrong her behaviour was.

At my 6th form, throughout Year 12 there wasn’t a discussion on all the possibilities once you had finished your A-Levels. It was as if University was the only suitable transition. It makes me wonder if most schools are like this, and therefore a lot more people are going to Uni because they feel they have to and not because they want to. And whether that plays a big part in the problem. There wasn’t really any guidance for those who weren’t going either.

Now a days going to University you know for the majority of courses (excluding occupational courses) just having that piece of paper with a grade means nothing. There’s thousands of others who have the same paper as you, and so you need something that makes you stand out from all the others with a degree. Which adds the pressure that not only do you need a 2.1 at least in everything, but also be an all rounder joining clubs/societies, gaining work experience or holding a part-time job and having a brilliant social life with crazy nights out. And if you don’t have all of that, then you start to internally question what’s wrong and why are you failing to do University #Thebesttimeofyourlyf the “right” way?

Personally I found University was a rollercoaster for my mental health. Although there were downs, there were many more triumphs that outshone those lows. The support I received from not only my academic tutor but the wellbeing team, my GP and the local NHS service were brilliant. I feel now in hindsight, had I not gone to university (especially away from home), I think my mental health would have suffered significantly.

Part of me wonders if the rise is because mental health is taken more seriously once you’re an adult/at uni. Depression/Anxiety at school would just be explained as ‘phases’, ‘hormones’ ‘usual teenage feelings’. How many of those already suffered before university? If so, surely our education system needs an overhaul. And not the Michael Grove’s shitty attempt at making things worse for everyone in general.

The only problem is, what’s the best solution?

Annmarie xoxo


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