Lets Talk Mental Health: Column 2— mental health and academic pressure


Photo by Carrie Minns

Gracie Pixton is a Senior at Lincoln. Her new column will focus on the impacts, support, and experiences of mental health in our community.

To read Gracie’s first column, click here.

Whether online or in-person, Lincoln’s academics come with a great deal of pressure. Students have not attended in-person classes since March of 2020; however, when we were in school, the academic strain that we were under was apparent. 

It was not uncommon throughout my high school career to walk down a hallway and see students crying over a grade or panicking over a test. Lincoln students have become so desensitized to the academic strain that they are under that no one even batted an eye when they found themselves, or their peers, crippling under the pressure. 

So let’s talk about it. I think that it is important to recognize what this hyper-competitive academic atmosphere is doing to our health emotionally, mentally and even physically. 

Let’s talk about how academic pressure affects our emotional health. 

School environments tend to promote the idea that a student’s worth is in direct correlation with their academic standing. This causes students to associate the content of their character with the letter grade that they see on the paper. This mindset can be extremely detrimental to their emotional health. Pressuring them to excel in their academic performance by pushing themselves far beyond their limits will not help them to grow into emotionally mature adults. 

Academic pressure also affects our mental health. 

Stress and school are highly intertwined. There is a lot expected of high school students. I know many who have had to balance sports, a job, IB classes and maintain a social life. This expectation to do it all and to do it all perfectly can lead to a lot of anxiety and stress. According to the Pew Research Center, 70% of teens say that anxiety and depression are major issues in their age group in the communities they live in. 

The intense hyper-competitive nature within the Lincoln community can also affect our physical well-being. 

According to the National Institution of Mental Health, overwhelming amounts of long term stress can have detrimental physical effects on the body. Prolonged stress can cause damage to the immune, digestive, cardiovascular, and sleep systems. This can lead to digestive issues, headaches, sleeplessness, sadness, or irritability. When students are experiencing these negative side effects of stress, it becomes difficult for them to do well in school. When it is difficult for them to do well in school, they become more stressed. Do you see the vicious cycle that we have created? 

Many within the Lincoln community that are striving for academic validation. As college admissions continue to become more selective and tuition prices continue to rise, students are trying harder in school now more than ever. This creates a toxic environment in which students are trying harder and harder and receiving less and less recognition. 

Teachers should not be discouraging students from failing in a classroom setting. As strange as that sounds, failure is what leads to the most growth. We need to take the pressure of students to succeed at every academic challenge they take on. School should be just as much about developing students into emotionally mature adults as it is about helping them to succeed academically.