Unraveling the Impact of Academic Pressure on Mental Health written by, Veera Gollapalli

For generations and generations, academic pressure has been the leading cause of many catastrophes regarding mental health. It has caused depression and anxiety in some cases, even suicide. Academic pressure stems from many factors like familial traditions, family expectations, societal expectations, past traumas, etc. But why does it have the power to affect people so much, especially the current generation of South Asian youth? What causes these things to occur in the first place? What are the intentions of parents and parental figures in this process? Where does their concern stem from? How do we stop this cycle?

Several parents in Western countries have migrated from their homeland hoping to find better opportunities and build a better future for themselves and their families. They are the ones who suffer the most from the cycle of academic stress and academic pressure. Their children suffer even more from the repercussions.

Many immigrant parents want their children to be lawyers, doctors, engineers, and in any high- paying occupation that is respected in society. Especially now, since it has become such a norm to study in these fields, so much that it has become a bare minimum to be in them. Numbers like 100k are so normalized when comparing kids.

When immigrant parents were younger, they did not have the chance to study what they wanted and attend prestigious universities for education. They had to study what was available and accessible to them and take on a job that would provide them with the financial security they needed. Their dreams were conquered by responsibility. But their dreams are not their children’s dreams. At the time, supporting a family meant their immediate family and a joint family they were a part of. They moved away from that life for a reason and that is what they are consistently failing to comprehend.

A popular discussion revolving around academia within South Asian households is the “We have done so much to get you here,” conversation. The fact of the matter is nobody is denying that. The one thing that is important for them to remember is that their kids did not ask to be here, they had them by choice. While it is a blessing that these kids are here, and they feel that as well, they constantly find pressure in the fact their parents try to live their lives through their children. Finding happiness through their children is always the answer they give when they are asked what makes them happy, and that is where the issue lies.

Humans are created to find their happiness first, and then share it with others, not create it communally. When they have no other source of happiness besides their children pursuing their dream careers, it diminishes all hope for the child. It would be so easy to call them bad parents and move on, but they are just not. They care about their children immensely and sometimes a little too much to the point where they strip away their ability to grow on their own.

It is one hundred percent true that parents have sacrificed so much and have given up their careers and parts of their lives for their children. And the children that are now reaping the benefits of these acts are extremely grateful. But what is the point of this sacrifice if these children are not allowed to do what they want? They claim that they came all this way to grow and to have their children grow career-wise and knowledge-wise. They want their children to be respected in society and to be able to have financial stability. They want their children to be dynamic individuals who make critical contributions to their society and humanity. But how can that happen if they do not have a choice? How can that happen if the pressure of achieving high grades is always crammed down their throat? It took too much effort for the current South Asian youth to finally understand that they cannot end up in the same cycle. The cycle of not being able to choose what they would like to do for the rest of their lives. That is not growth. They have understood that to grow, they must break free from the chains of their parents’ traumas and their past.