Students put under too much pressure during HSC exams can have devastating mental health consequences, an esteemed school counsellor has warned.
Eddy Fracarossi, a health professional for the past 26 years and current counsellor at Holsworthy High School fears that the HSC creates an unsafe amount of stress for students during the four week examination period.
“HSC is an incredibly, unrealistically, stressful time [for students]. It’s the whole emphasis that gets put on it, with the whole thing about your life’s journey. Too much emphasis is placed on it by the department of education,” Mr Fracarossi said.
More than 77,000 NSW high school students are currently in the last week of their HSC exams. Recent studies reveal that the number of students who experience high-level anxiety symptoms during this time have increased over the last few years. Many of these cases involve ‘extremely severe levels of anxiety’ which can have dangerous impacts on students’ wellbeing.
“Some of the repercussions that tend to come is that they don’t study as effectively, and it impacts their memory. It impacts their relationships around them and they stress out more, it’s a vicious cycle. And sometimes when they stress too much they can have mental blanks in the examination and that creates more stress,” Mr Fracarossi said.
These warnings are echoed by Ninan Mathew, the Wellbeing Coordinator for Student Life and Wellbeing at the University of Wollongong.
“Stress is what keeps you on your toes during a presentation at work… or drives you to study for an exam when you’d rather be watching TV. But beyond your comfort zone, stress stops being helpful and can start causing major damage to your mind and body,” Mr Mathew said.
There are ways to beat stress according to Mr Mathew. Techniques such as being physically active, connecting with others, engaging your senses, setting aside time to relax and eating a healthy diet can contribute to overcoming stress.
Mr Fracarossi hopes that students remember that the HSC is not the end of their world.
“There’s more to life than the exams. Exams don’t give a true measure of your ability; it’s one snapshot, so whatever the outcome, there are alternatives,” he said.