For most students, high school can be tough. Juggling homework, part-time jobs and maintaining a social life; the pressure is always on. For those students who are also battling depression, school becomes extremely overwhelming, especially when we come to battling the HSC. It’s important for us to understand the anxiety and depression that the students are facing today.
The HSC is the crucial ending to those 13 years you’ve spent at school, that final mountain to climb before you can be free from school forever.
For me, it was all too much. From year 10 I had been dealing with the onset of a heavy depression that affected all aspects of my life, most noticeably school.
In the year of my HSC I missed 98 days of school – almost half of the school year. Half the context, half the assessment, half the marks. I was failing year 12 because of my declining mental health and it only made me feel worse off for it.
My mind was fighting itself between thoughts of wanting to thrive and achieve great things at school, and feeling like I wouldn’t be good enough anyway so why bother.
Not only were my grades being affected but my personal life – not being there for half the year I missed out on half the conversations, half the social events, and eventually, I lost all the friendships I’d formed over the last 13 years.
It was a constant struggle but it wasn’t always bad. When I pushed myself to attend class I loved everything I was learning, my teachers were great and my school wasn’t as daunting as my mind tricked me to believe every day.
The thing is, it never truly goes away, even now as a university student I still face the same thoughts and issues but it’s about finding the tricks that work for you.
What student should do if they have anxiety and depression
- Tell your teachers they’re struggling: teachers are people too and trust me, they will understand. Chances are they’ll be a little easier on you too when it comes to your attendance and assessments.
- Take subjects that you love: some days it’s going to be tough to get out of bed. That’s just the way it is. But if you don’t take subjects that make you want to go to school the rest of the time it’s going to take an even bigger toll not only on your school performance but most likely your mental health as well.
- Understand that the HSC isn’t the be-all and end-all: The HSC is definitely daunting and can put a lot of pressure on all students. But there are many other options post HSC for getting into the university or career you desire. From personal experience I received an ATAR under 50 and I got into my course through the Western Sydney University college program which is the exact same length course as going straight into the university degree. (And now all universities offer a similar program!)
- Practice saying yes: wether it’s in your school life, social life or even just at home. When a task in your life feels overwhelming and you want to say no, practise pushing yourself to say yes. I guarantee that when it’s over, you’ll feel so much better you didn’t just stay in bed.
For those on the outside:
Know the stats:
Approximately 60% of all students will experience a major depressive episode during Grade 11 and 12.
Approximately 16% of students will be experiencing continual depression (12% of these being clinically diagnosed)
Teachers, parents and peers. Try to recognise when someone might be depressed, offer them some help, or just even offer them a compliment; tell them they’re doing well.
Avoid putting on pressure or making them feel useless for having no motivation when they’re going through a depressive episode. Understand that they may be in this state for many day, weeks, or months and try to form a stable part of their support system.
If you are a student who is currently experiencing depression and finding the weight of school difficult to deal with, reach out. Contact a school counsellor or ask your GP for a mental health plan. There are also free chat lines and phone numbers you can use to seek help.
Don’t feel useless when little tasks become overwhelming – your mind is full and your body is experiencing stress because of it, you have every right to feel this way.
Keep pushing through and try to find little victories in every day.