Stress Survey


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Mary Rose Bernal, Community Editor

Stress.  It’s a word commonly overhead in the Presentation hallways.  Stress is a major problem, impacting mental as well as physical health, and sometimes leading to chronic illness.  And it seems to be spreading to students at Presentation.

In fact, according to the American Psychological Association, stress is a problem that isn’t going away anytime soon, especially for teenagers.  A recent APA survey found that levels of stress in teenagers are now higher than they are for adults, with teenagers stating stress levels at 5.8 on a scale of one to ten, where adults only listed 5.1.  The APA reports that the most common sources of this for teens are school (83 percent), getting into a good college or deciding what to do after high school (69 percent), and financial concerns for their family (65 percent).

At a place like Presentation, all three sources are potentially combined.  Rigorous course loads, preparation for college, and other various extracurriculars challenge students to strive for success, causing stress to be a more prevalent outcome.

But the issue is not unique to one high school, instead affecting the entire nation.  “This is happening at all high schools. I think there’s been an increase in middle schools, high schools, and even the college level,” says Vice Principal of Student Services Susan Mikacich.

With that in mind, all Pres students recently spent a collaboration filling out a stress survey sponsored by the Stanford Department of Education.  This survey, created by the sub-committee Challenge Success, has already collected the responses of 15,000 middle school and high school students across the country.

Questions range from “If you were going to use three words or phrases to describe Presentation High School, what would they be?” to “How often does the amount of schoolwork you have keep you from getting enough sleep?” The questions measure anxiety levels, parental influence, family situation, time allotted to academics, and importance of workload.  For example, “busywork,” or homework that does not require students to think critically, is considered by some to be a waste of time.

While waiting for results, Presentation administrators and teachers are doing their best to address ongoing problems. A committee formed last year to address student mental health has continued to meet to discuss strategies for reducing stress. The committee’s next step is to create a similar survey for the Pres parent community.:

“We like to be proactive here.  We provide you with tools while you’re in high school so that when you do go off to college you’re better able to handle it.  We always say we’re educating the whole person.  We’re not just educating you to go to college; we’re educating the mind, body, and spirit,” Mikacich says.

As the faculty work toward potential solutions, students are encouraged to visit with their class level counselors with personal problems, and the campus chapel offers spiritual guidance.  As a whole, faculty at Pres are sympathetic to student issues and willing to discuss extensions for work when students get overwhelmed.

In terms of major changes however, it may be a while.  Over the course of a few months, Challenge Success scrutinizes the data and then meets with the school to discuss findings and possible areas of improvement.  “Probably in January we’ll be able to share results with teaching faculty and staff as well as student and parent community and maybe create a comprehensive plan to address student wellness as a whole.  I’d love to have the results now, but unfortunately we have to be patient,” Mikacich says.

For some students, January can’t come fast enough. “I hope the workload is reduced so there’s more time and less stress,” says senior Hannah Minic.  “It’s hard for us to be well-rounded when we have no extra time.”