Shaheen Bhatt on student depression and academic stress: Education is a journey, not a marathon

Academic stress and exam pressure can lead to dire consequences for kids. Screenwriter and poet Shaheen Bhatt pens an open letter on coping with academic stress.
Shaheen Bhatt on exam stress
Shaheen Bhatt talks about academic stress and why it is unnecessary. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock
Arushi Bidhuri Published: 4 Oct 2023, 20:52 pm IST
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In the relentless pursuit of academic excellence, a majority of students feel pressured by the weight of exams. Every now and then, we keep hearing about one student or the other succumbing to death because they were either too depressed or couldn’t handle the pressure their parents and teachers were putting them under. In light of an increasing number of deaths of students due to academic stress, even the Indian government has recently issued guidelines to prevent student suicides. These guidelines were created because there have been a number of deaths by suicide of school students studying for competitive examinations in Rajasthan’s Kota, India’s test preparation centre. In Kota, there have been 25 events of student suicide deaths so far in 2023.

In the race of being the best, we sometimes forget that there is a world beyond grades and report cards. While good marks can help students get into a good college or secure a good job, but does it ensure happiness?

Understanding the world beyond marks and report cards

Raising such questions and showing students, parents and academicians the mirror is a motivational post by screenwriter-author Shaheen Bhatt, who has battled depression herself.

She writes, “Over the years, there has been a steady rise in stories of student depression and drastic measures all on account of academic stress. We see too many bright minds collapse under the weight of societal and parental expectations to excel. ‘Success’ has been reduced to marks, grades, and scores. Good marks undoubtedly hold significance in the academic journey of a student, and in India, we have a strong tradition of education as a means to secure a safe, stable, and prosperous future. But, in all this we forget that marks only represent one facet of a students’ abilities and potential.”

The “I’ve Never Been (un) Happier.” author and daughter of filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt further asserts that there is a world beyond report cards – a world of “unique talent, creativity, empathy, and emotional intelligence – qualities that are equally if not more deserving of our care and attention.”

Shaheen Bhatt
Shaheen Bhatt on academic stress. Image Courtesy: Instagram/Shaheenb

How to handle academic stress?

‘Health is wealth’ is a proverb we have all heard. But how many of us actually stand by it? When you think from the perspective of a student, you’ll see how they are not living by it or even prioritising it. A study published in the journal Psychology Research and Behaviour Management found that academic stress could indirectly affect depressive symptoms.

While stress and pressure can be inevitable at times, there are certain things you might be able to do to safeguard your child’s life:

1. Parents should talk to their kids

While parents don’t intentionally put pressure on their kids, sometimes their desire to see their children thrive can lead to be too overwhelming for their kids. The best way is to talk to your children and give them unwavering support to help them navigate their way through a difficult system, writes Bhatt. Studies have also shown that parents talking to their kids will have a positive effect on their life.

2. Marks aren’t everything

Once students are out of school or college, they will understand that marks are only one part of their lives. “Education isn’t just about memorising facts but nurturing well-rounded individuals who can navigate life’s challenges with resilience and empathy. Marks do not dictate your future success; they are only stepping stones to help you get from one side to the other – but remember, there’s always more than one way to get across,” she adds.

3. Students should communicate

One of the best ways to deal with academic stress is by talking about it. As Dr Kamna Chibber once mentioned in a conversation with Health Shots, the healthiest way to deal with academic stress is communication. You must understand that it is alright to ask for help when you are suffering or overwhelmed. Talking to any of your loved ones or seeking professional help can make you feel better.

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Also Read: Use the power of manifestation when you communicate with your child

communication with kids
Parents and kids should communicate about exam pressure. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

4. Focusing on growing and evolving, not just scoring

You should take “education as a journey, not a marathon or a sprint or something to win at,” writes Bhatt. Education should feel more empowering, not suffocating. If it does make you feel like that, you are taking things too seriously and not learning. Education should help you learn, grow, and evolve.

At last, you must understand that success should not cost you happiness – that’s too big a price to pay! The ladder you climb to live a comfortable life shouldn’t cast shadows on joy. This is why parents or teachers shouldn’t put pressure on students but help them understand the importance of learning not just scoring!

I was lucky to have parents who didn’t constantly pressure me to score the best marks, they always encouraged me to score well and learn more! While they never pressured me, I still felt an unknown weight on my shoulders to perform well in academics. Sometimes it is not your parents or teachers but the education system that makes students feel pressured to score higher marks instead of focusing on gaining knowledge. As a society, we can do better!

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About the Author

Arushi Bidhuri is a journalist with 7 years of experience in writing, editing, and conceptualizing story ideas in different genres, including health and wellness, lifestyle, politics, beauty, fashion, etc. Arushi has a strong connection in the industry that helps her write concise and original stories as she believes in working towards writing pieces that can enlighten people. ...Read More

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