Parents want their children to do well in school and get into college. But almost 40 percent of parents in an NPR, Robert Wood Johnson poll say their high school student is experiencing a great deal of stress from school. The impact of academic stress on student mental health is a growing concern.
University of Michigan Psychiatry faculty member Elizabeth Koschmann says middle and high school students have always faced stress from academics. But she believes the sense of stress is increasing as students have less down time after classes, sports, and extracurriculars.
Parents can help by emphasizing a balance between striving for success and having fun and by demonstrating good habits for coping with stress. Koschmann says students need help from outside of the home as well. "If schools were to integrate wellness education, or social emotional learning programs, or other strategies that support mental health of students into their daily curricula then I think that could have a huge impact," she says.
Koschmann says it's important for kids to deal with the mental health impacts of academic stress before they graduate from high school. That's because studies show college is a very stressful time for many students.
Dr. Lisa Lauterbach is the Director of Eastern Michigan University's Counseling and Psychological Services. She says academic stress generally isn't the primary reason students seek counseling. "They are coming to our office because they're dealing with a great deal of anxiety and worry. That's our primary diagnosis if you want to think about that, or presenting problem. Depression is the second most frequent reason for a visit to our office," Lauterbach says.