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Create an atmosphere of support for students struggling with stress

Create an atmosphere of support for students struggling with stress

By Katarina Weessies

Section: Opinions

March 11, 2016

Brandeis students are stressed. We have been stressed since before we started university. For our most privileged students, this stress has been cultivated by the external pressures of the “overachiever” culture present in many higher income communities. Our least privileged students often cope with imposter syndrome and the difficulties of navigating a world of higher education for which society has failed to prepare them. Students of varying economic, racial and social backgrounds all face unique challenges during their experience at Brandeis, and if they do not have the tools and resources to healthfully cope with these challenges, they can have disastrous effects on their mental health.

Part of the college experience is learning how to face challenges. Without some difficulties, students would never grow into independent adults. However, the characteristic perfectionism and ambition of Brandeis students, when combined with the high-achieving academic environments in which many Brandeisians grew up, can lead to an unreasonable and seemingly insurmountable amount of stress.

Brandeisians, for the most part, are not coping well with this stress. Most of us are familiar with the intense panic that Brandeis students experience before midterms and finals or the frenzied second-semester scramble to apply for summer internships. The question “what do you want to do after college?” can cause so much dread in the question’s recipient that asking about a student’s post-graduation goals has become taboo.

While it’s necessary that students experience some stress to stay motivated, too much stress has terrible effects on mental and physical health. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (a part of the National Institutes of Health), stress can cause “high blood pressure, diabetes, depression, anxiety disorder and other illnesses.” Brandeisians, like all other U.S. university students, are coping with the threat of unemployment, student loans and the general struggle to succeed in a competitive environment. Many of the financial and academic woes of current college students are unique to millennials.

According to the Labor Department, college tuition increased by 80 percent from 2003 to 2013. Students and their families are struggling to keep up with this insane rise in costs, sometimes by taking out sizable loans and working unreasonable hours. Shouldering the financial burden of a university education can cause enormous damage to the mental health of students. This threat to mental health is intensified for students from lower income backgrounds.

Although there are certainly many threats to the mental health of Brandeis students, resources such as mindfulness classes, counseling and yoga are available to help students cope. Unfortunately, these resources are limited. Brandeis has too many students and not enough psychological counselors. Yoga and mindfulness classes, when they are available, are not

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