There are growing concerns for the mental health of year 12 students preparing for the Higher School Certificate, with two in three young people experiencing alarming levels of exam related stress.
The information comes after a survey conducted by the online youth service, ReachOut, revealed that 65.1% of people between the ages of 14 and 24 reported feeling ‘worrying levels’ of exam stress; a significant 13.9% increase since last year.
Year 12 student, Katie Price has described being under an increasing amount of pressure to achieve the final scores she needs to get into her desired course.
“My school and my parents put the most pressure on me,” she said. “I feel like my parents are more personal about it, they just want me to do my best.”
Alongside Miss Price are 77,000 other year 12 students across New South Wales expected to sit the HSC, and with the month of October being Mental Health Awareness month, Ashley de Sliva, CEO of ReachOut, is encouraging students to practice healthy habits to help manage their stress.
“There are many different things we can do to maintain and improve our mental health, things like getting enough sleep, maintaining a healthy diet and exercising are all key,” Ms de Sliva said.
Although exam-related stress is not uncommon, this steady rise amongst school students has revealed that two in three students experience unhealthy levels of stress.
While some stress can be helpful in keeping students alert, Ms de Sliva said students must take care that stress levels don’t escalate.
“When those stress levels get too high it can often leave students feeling overwhelmed,” she said. “The signs to look out for are feeling over-burdened, anxious, racing thoughts and not being able to switch off, or unable to enjoy yourself.”
Students who feel like they are experiencing dangerous levels of stress are encouraged to speak to someone, as early intervention is crucial in controlling stress levels.
“Increasingly students are turning to professionals for help when it comes to exam stress, but if they act sooner so they can take steps to help ensure that their stress remains at a healthy level,” Ms de Silva said.
Miss Price said that she is focussing on putting her mental health first to ensure she performs to the best of her ability during her final exams.
“I take time out to do things that make me relaxed, like listening to music, napping and getting outside,” she said.
Miss Price’s final HSC exam is on November 9.