How to reduce academic pressure
It’s that time of the year again when back to school and Uni freshers season is upon us. Whilst this is an exciting time, it can also be quite a daunting one too. The pressure on children from schools, family, and their friends is starting earlier and earlier.
This can lead to a range of mental health problems, including depression, self-harm and even suicide. When you see young children and young people playing and chatting happily together it’s hard to imagine that more than one in 20 (7%) have attempted suicide by the age of 17, while nearly a quarter (24%) have self-harmed within the last year.
This pressure within the school environment starts right from the offset in reception and only increases through their school career. By the time our children are preparing to go to university, this pressure has only increased further. In universities across the country, students admit to needing to “pop a pill” to keep up with the pressures of coursework, exam success, and the busy social scene they are expected to be involved in.
This includes “smart drugs” that are taken to increase academic performance, for example, to improve concentration, memory, and mental stamina during exam time. The most commonly used are those intended to treat disorders such as narcolepsy and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (Modafinil, Ritalin and Adderall).
Sadly, this is a reality that parents need to know about. However, it is never too early to be aware of the risks and take preventative action.
How to reduce the pressure of achievement
It is paramount that we address the issue of pressure put on children now and the sooner we do, the better! Dr Amanda Gummer, founder of Dr Gummer’s Good Play Guide, believes firmly in the power of play in the early years to help develop positive mental health and resilience. “Giving children the time, freedom and resources to play enables them to develop important skills that promote relationships, build self-esteem and act as a buffer against stress.”
As a parent you can look at how you define success both for yourself and your children. Think about what you want for their future and work collaboratively with them towards this. Success is subjective to each of us individually and can mean a range of things, for example:
- Academic success – am I pushing them towards good grades, university degrees and beyond?
- Emotional success – do I want them to be content, fulfilled, in a happy relationship, provide us with grandchildren?
- Material Success – am I teaching them that money is so important, that their goal in life is to own a nice house, car, or holiday homes abroad?
Making it clear to your child what you’re working to achieve helps identify and deal with any other underlying pressures that may be coming from elsewhere, and helps give children clear goals to work towards achieving.
When age-appropriate, discuss the problems that people of your child’s age may face as they grow, and leave the door wide open for your child to talk to you about any worries they have. Let them discuss with you that drugs are never the answer, and show them that a quick fix to achieve success in an exam may soon become a dependency.
Nurturing confident young people with high self-esteem, who trust their parents to listen to them is the best way you can guard your child against the pressures of growing up in an achievement-focussed world.
Suicide prevention for children and young people
With appropriate support and education, it may be possible to reduce the risk of suicide by:
- Providing confidential help and advice to young people and anyone worried about a young person
- Helping others to prevent young suicide by delivering a number of training programmes
- Campaigning and influencing National policy
The OLLIE Foundation, a suicide prevention charity, aims to provide support such as this and raise awareness of suicide. Set up in 2016 by three parents who had each lost a son to suicide, OLLIE provides wellbeing, prevention and intervention training as well as talks and panel events for professionals, parents, students and young people. The foundation also hosts a range of creative wellbeing sessions for all, and a private Facebook group for parents and carers whose child is in crisis.