Life after the 12th board examination is all about fun they said. Little did anyone know that the world would start progressing at the speed of lightning, making the academic and career journey of every young individual extremely challenging. Our nation’s young minds are constantly racing against time to get to the zenith of their careers.
The pressure of passing out with flying colours to get into top renowned universities, the compulsion to figure out career choices at a very early stage, surviving the parental pressure to always excel in life and of course other kinds of social commitments take a toll on the young minds.
As per the NCRB (National Crime Records Bureau) data for 2021, over 13,000 individuals under the age of 30, died by suicide out of which 1,600 were facing severe fear of examination failure. Today, many young college-going students are suffering from mental health concerns like anxiety, depression, OCD, body dysmorphia, and eating disorders, to name a few.
College students are undergoing a myriad of issues. While academic pressure and the compulsive need to excel in life stand as the number one reason why students succumb to pressures, there are many other factors too.
Ms Nidhi Borana, a Counselling Psychologist, and Career Counsellor identified other common issues like difficulty in making friends, relationships and dating issues, difficulty in concentrating, gender identity and sexual orientation-related confusion, childhood trauma, abuse and addiction as being responsible for the rise in distress among students. She also mentioned the increase in the splitting of parents as one of the key reasons leading to students’ disturbed mental health.
Ms Nidhi Borana is a city college counsellor who has been practising counselling for the past 10 years. Currently, Ms Borana is a visiting counsellor in Mumbai Colleges like the Guru Nanak College, Sion and M.H. Saboo Siddik College of Engineering, Byculla. Apart from shedding light on the common factors leading to the rise in mental health concerns among students, she also stated that many of them don’t know how to correctly deal with the issues they face. This is where in-house college counsellors come to the rescue.
Many colleges today have in-house counsellors who pay close attention to the students. Ms Nidhi initially started working as a college counsellor with Mumbai’s KC College and successfully got over 100 students for counselling over the years. This, she says, helped spread awareness about counselling not just among students but among teachers and parents as well. Ms Nidhi says the response to seeking counselling is remarkable and has only improved over the years.
This said colleges must adopt a culture of student well-being and prioritise their mental health. Ms Nidhi Borana says, “in-house college counselling is a must. The need for professional health among students was always there. It is not a new phenomenon, but now it’s required more than ever. Students, today, have to multitask. They have a lot on their plate be it the academic pressure, the stress of securing a job or doing multiple internships, handling their social relations be it with their friends or their romantic partners and also dealing with family issues. They are forced to be the best at everything they do. This leads to a disconnection with self. All of it combined causes immense pressure. Counselling helps students deal with the multiple commitments of their life in a better way.”
The duration of college counselling heavily depends on how each student copes. The process can be as short as just one session or it can stretch up to months or even years. What is best about counselling in college is that it is easily accessible, ensures 100% student confidentiality and is completely free of cost.
While students suffering from mental health concerns like anxiety and depression do require counselling, those going through other kinds of day-to-day issues can also seek professional help. Ms Nidhi Borana says that sometimes, all a student requires is to identify they need help and the rest of the process just follows.
Ms Borana suggests students be observant when with batchmates. She says, “for those who have friends dealing with any problem, you can always be there for them, provide a safe space where they can vent freely, listen and make them feel heard. It is okay even if you don’t understand what they are going through, and you don’t necessarily have to provide them with solutions. Just listen. If you see a repetitive pattern in their disturbed state of mind, it is always best to direct them to a professional counsellor.”
Knowing when to seek professional help is the first step in counselling. Ms Nidhi Borana says, “when one feels that their behaviour is amiss or when someone else from their closed circle points it out, it can be an indication to visit a counsellor. In addition to this, if one is having constant negative thoughts and emotions, unhealthy responses to a person, situation or their own emotions, then they should see a counsellor. Physiologically, if one experiences excessive sweating, breathing issues, or irregular menstrual cycle, etc. it is best to seek help.”
While a lot of us do need help from professionals, anyone and everyone can adopt certain activities that can help us cope and respond to stress in a much better way. Ms Nidhi Borana lays great emphasis on inculcating self-discipline in life. She says it is a strong factor that will lead to bringing about a positive change. She suggests practising self-discipline through, journaling, doodling, scribbling, exercising as well as practising our hobby on a daily basis. This helps in keeping the mind calm and in solace and aids in holistic healing.
Flashing a warm smile, on a parting note, Ms Nidhi Borana urges each and everyone to put away their gadgets for a while, connect with themselves, breathe and spend quality time with friends laughing and enjoying.