Student Stress and the Pressure of a Broken Economy

There are many ways to blow off steam, from mindfulness meditation, and even, as recent reports have suggested, playing video games. However, one young man in Edinburgh resorted to a violent expression of stress: firing at children with a BB gun as a way to relieve stress.

Jack Hewitt, the 17 year old charged, reportedly claimed “I was just letting off steam. I’ll never do it again” and described his actions as “so stupid”. Luckily, none of the children were seriously hurt. The stress he felt was allegedly as a result of the highly intense exam period at his £10,000 a year George Watson’s College.

Hewitt has had his sentence deferred however, so that he can tackle the next exam period, to see how he can cope with the stress a second time around.

Although Hewitt’s actions are inexcusable, they are worrying as a sign of how stressed students are nowadays, and how much pressure is put on them to achieve. If his claims are true, stress from pressure to perform well caused him to behave amorally and dangerously.

Depression and anxiety figures are rising, and a lot of this can be blamed on the state of the economy; lack of funds, unemployment or redundancy, and the pressure of not being able to pay bills can cause all people, particularly adults and parents, to become depressed or anxious. This must be having a profound effect on children and students, who can see what is happening to the older generation.

The threat of unemployment puts pressure on children and students to perform well in exams, as their futures seem to boil down to a simple letter-grading system. Often they can feel like if they don’t get C’s, B’s or A’s, their lives will be a failure. Recently there have been reports that students with less than five A*-C GCSEs are far more likely to self-harm than those who achieve highly.

Suicide is unfortunately not unheard of in the student circles, from schools, to colleges, to universities, and recently several charities pushed for “emotional health” lessons to be on the National Curriculum, but have been denied. That begs the question of who is going to help today’s youth before more express their stress through violence like young Hewitt? More awareness of stress relieving techniques like mindfulness should be spread throughout schools and made readily available for all people.

The new generation have indeed been dealt a very difficult hand.

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