Throughout my education, I have HATED exams, so thank God this is my last year of examinations (fingers crossed). I get really nervous before taking them, and I think they’re a foolish method of assessment, especially for a humanities student. Expecting students to produce essays on unseen questions in 1 hour of the same quality as coursework is practically impossible, although there is a magical breed of people tend to do better under timed conditions.
The most difficult part of exam season for me is my attitude and my mental wellbeing during this time. Having struggled with suicidal thoughts since I was 12, I have never dealt with stressful situations very well, and tend to spiral into a miserable mess. The thing with suicidal thoughts is that it’s a default way of thinking. Anytime I hit a small bump on the road of revision I automatically think about what it would be like to self-harm or give up entirely.
Recent studies have shown how youth suicide rates surge during the run-up to, or during exam period. A report by the University of Manchester found that 96 young people aged under 25 take their lives in April and May each year. 47% were 20-24 year-olds facing “academic pressures overall” before their death. (However, that figure represents seven of the only 15 suicides in that age group among young people who were in education at the time.)
Not only are suicidal thoughts distracting and hurtful, they’re inescapable. Staying motivated with this sort of mindset is extremely difficult. Every task becomes laden with dark thoughts and fighting through them to convince myself that it’s worth it is exhausting. Staying up late to finally get all my tasks done is taxing. And not getting all my tasks done for the day fills me with guilt that is unsustainable and only makes me more suicidal.
There are many ways to stay motivated and on task, but there are also so many ways to get distracted, unmotivated and sad. Something that has helped me is making a mental note of whenever I am motivated to try to access why I feel that way – for example where I am, what I have eaten, what time it is, whether I’m alone or with people, or what music I’m listening to. Then I try my best to replicate this situation to stay motivated the next day. Managing these ‘triggers’ can help me stay focused and present, and at least get something done. It doesn’t have to be everything, but at least it’s something.
If you feel you are dealing with similar problems, please consider the University’s counselling service which also offers workshops on stress, depression and anxiety, or for emergencies call Samaritans on 116 123 for free.
Disclaimer: This article was not written to endorse, least of or encourage suicidal thoughts. Neither was it for attention seeking purposes or clickbait, and I have no monetary incentive to write this article. It’s purely what is on my mind and writing about it helps me understand my own thought process, and I hope it helps others too.
Edited By Isabelle Walker