How to Address the Mental Health Concerns of Engineering Students?

 In a world that promotes hustle culture, stress is often glorified. 

If you are an engineering student or know someone who is, you would understand the demanding nature of the field. 

It will not come as a surprise that a comparative study on students of Engineering, Medicine, and Nursing, identified a tremendous amount of stress on Engineering candidates which goes beyond the pressure of regular study, examinations, or competitiveness among peers. 

Did you know almost half of the students in the U.S. do not complete their graduation? The US and several other countries have trouble producing sufficient young talent due to this overwhelming stress of the Science and Engineering disciplines. 

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It, therefore, becomes the need of the hour to address the mental health concerns of students, especially for engineering students.

Identification of Stress Among Engineering Candidates

As far as the study of engineering is concerned, students are often told that stress is inevitable for success. This is a cultural misconception ingrained in the mind of the young pupil.

According to the Kessler Psychological Distress Scale (K10), around 38% of engineering students were susceptible to high mental illness. 

The issue is more severe in countries like India, where there is a shared obsession with engineering. The outcome is a high suicide rate amongst students despite getting admissions in reputed engineering colleges of the nation. This is a direct outcome of the stress that students in the engineering streams endures.

Remember Joy Lobo from the movie 3 Idiots, played by actor Ali Fazal? His death in the film is not exaggerated for creative purposes but depicts the real issues prevailing. The movie is a pioneer in addressing the various types of mental stress facing by Engineering graduates. Each character had their own mental pressure to deal with and was a wake-up call for the parents. 

Apart from educational stress and less help from the faculty, caste discrimination is also a significant issue in countries like India.

Reasons for Stress Among Engineering Students

This could be the outcome of academic stress, financial pressure, concerns about one's career, or some other factors. According to the survey by  the International Journal of Scientific Engineering and Applied Science (IJSEAS), the standard categories of trigger points are as follows:

  • Tight schedules, low grades, and deadlines in education
  • Poor time management skills that result in increased academic stress.
  • The social pressure of being successful in life and maintaining a social camaraderie
  • Non-academic factors, like financial conditions and the pressure of part-time jobs that international students do.
  • Stress of traveling.
  • Irregular sleep schedule.

Therefore, it is difficult for students to focus on a demanding stream when their mental health is misused. These issues may prevail for college students in general, but some issues are more prevalent among engineering students. 

When it comes to engineering students in India, various factors add to the issue:.

  • The burden of excessive research required for B. Tech courses.
  • Pressure of semester examinations.
  • Maintaining the percentage of attendance.
  • High-expectations of the faculty.
  • Long preparation hours.
  • The burden of curriculum.

Challenging Experiences for Students All over the World

The       COVID-19 pandemic added more stresses to students worldwide.  Students need to adjust for remote learning methods. There has been immense pressure of adapting to new learning methods in a rapidly changing environment. The result was an increased workload and a feeling of isolation. 

An online survey done in the UK, discussed the deteriorating mental health conditions of students pursuing higher education. Almost 50% of the Northern England University students showed significant signs of anxiety and depression. 

The U.S National Academics of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) produced a similar report depicting the severity of the situation. 

What Do Experts Have to Say on the Issue?

The issue of the deteriorating mental health amongst students is new to the faculties, and various universities are addressing it. A study by the American Council on Education enlisted reports from different university presidents. In the study, 68% have expressed concern over their students’ mental health. 

Even the National Academic Report has blamed student attrition on poor student mental health. Alan Leshner, the chairman of the U.S NASEM, has been very vocal in drawing the attention of authorities towards the issue. 

The chief executive emeritus of the American Association for the development of too has warned the public about the decline due to lack of proper intervention. According to him, Universities need to build the proper infrastructure for assessing the importance of the situation. This has to go beyond simple counseling or general health services.

How Faculties Can Help?

Faculties can target student mental well-being by incorporating some basic strategies:

  • Helping students understand the importance of stress and not glorifying it as a cultural norm. 
  • Focusing on implementing a positive relationship between the faculty and the student community so they can reach out in need. 
  • Allowing teachers to conduct social exercises within the class to build connections among the students. 
  • Conducting workshops, teaching students to manage their time better.
  • Enforcing positive emotions within the students by acknowledging their efforts. 
  • Inducing deeper learning instead of just rushing through lessons. 
  • Promoting physical activity for the students. 
  • Providing mental health care to students. 
  • Funding the training of faculties and making them aware of the issues of students. 

Although it is not always possible to cater to the students' individual needs, the faculty can help by being more mindful. In this, the teachers and the administration need to work together if they want to achieve a positive outcome. 

How Students Can Deal with Stress?

Students also have a role to play in managing stress in their engineering life. Life is not limited to differential equations and fluid mechanic theories alone. 

Engaging in healthy activities with friends, investing some time into their passion, and not taking life too seriously is key to living well. Even blogging about their feelings on random topics can be therapeutic in relieving stress. 

How Families Can Help?

Families need to be aware of the mental condition of their children. 

Half of the children in the U.S do not receive proper treatment for mental health disorders. Now the numbers may be all-inclusive of the children and teens within the country, but the same logic applies to engineering students as well. 

Students take up such complex studies in the hope of living up to family expectations. Over time, their inability to cope with the stress can make them more detached. 

Parents can play a significant role in helping the students cope better in these situations. Simply having a heart-to-heart conversation with your children can work wonders. Also, paying attention to their sleeping patterns and nutrition will provide a holistic approach to the issue. 

Moreover, families having open discussions can break the stigma related to mental health.

Simultaneously, Indian parents need to stop giving importance to societal pressure and understand that studying engineering is not the only way to succeed. Families need to stop encouraging discussions about students’ career choices. Your son or daughter’s career should be their decision alone, preferably based on their abilities.

The parents can be there as advisors, but anyone outside the family should not be entertained. Even after completion, there should be room for engineers to opt for other courses, like art and photography. 

Parents need to consult with their children to understand their goals better and encourage them to pursue their interests freely.  

Wrapping Up

The truth is, the world needs more engineering students. With the opening of new engineering jobs in the coming years, the need is delete only going to increase. Sure, this particular field of study is demanding, but it provides good opportunities in terms of career building. 

As the great saying goes, "with great power comes great responsibility." However, this time, the responsibility falls on everyone to take the correct initiative to ensure a healthier future. 

COVID-19 pandemic added more stress to the students worldwide.  Students need to adjust for remote learning methods.