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Pressure, expectations lead to student depression

By Zou Shuo in Changsha | China Daily | Updated: 2023-11-02 09:36

Visitors tour an exhibition showcasing artworks created by teenagers with depression at the 798 Danish Cultural Center in Beijing on Oct 22. [Photo provided to China Daily]

The pressure to get into good schools along with expectations from parents are the main reasons for anxiety and depression among Chinese teenagers, according to a new survey.

The online survey of more than 21,500 secondary school students conducted in October in 28 provincial regions was released recently by the think tank China Education 30 Forum.

More than 54 percent of the affected students said school admission is the biggest reason for their anxiety and depression, followed by parental expectations (43 percent) and exams (40 percent).

The survey found that 59 percent of the students said they have never experienced anxiety or depression, 26 percent said they have such symptoms once a week, 12 percent twice or three times and 3 percent four or more times each week.

Almost 65 percent of the students said they would turn to their friends for help when faced with anxiety or depression, and 48 percent said they would ask for help from their parents. Only 16 percent said they would seek help from teachers and 10 percent from psychological professionals.

Yang Dongping, a member of the National Education Advisory Committee, said the main reason for psychological issues among teenagers is a heavy burden from academic study and taking exams.

In 2021, the central authorities issued the "double reduction" policy aiming to reduce the excessive after-school tutoring and homework burden of primary and middle school students.

Yang said the key to reducing students' academic burden is to form new concepts of education and learning that put more value on students' happiness than success.

He suggests significantly reducing the number and difficulty of courses and the difficulty of exams.

Chen Mo, a psychological consultant at East China Normal University who specializes in child and teenage psychological education, said about half of the depressed students she has interviewed ranked top of their class.

They achieved good grades when they were in lower grades and after they encountered more competition as they grew older, they were liable to have a psychological breakdown after they failed to meet expectations, she said.

Li Xinying, a researcher at the Institute of Psychology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said high expectations from parents can lead to anxiety and depression in children, and their academic performance is likely to worsen.

If parents scold or even beat their children, control them too much or often criticize them, it will influence their brain development and lead to psychological issues, she added.

Fan Lirong, a psychiatrist at Yunnan Xinhua Hospital, said while not many children with psychological issues turn to professional help, she still recommends they do so.

If the intervention measures are early, children with depression can fully recover and it might only be an isolated experience in their life, she said.

However, if such psychological issues are overlooked, they cannot be cured and the depression could exist long term, she added.

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