Last year, I wrote a short post about things we could do for graduating seniors. That post was prompted by nothing other than the fact that it was graduation season, and many of my students were in the midst of a job hunt. This year, I have noticed something else: graduating seniors having serious panic attacks. I first noticed this a month or so ago when a good student missed class and told me later that they had taken a look at their calendar the night before and had such a serious panic attack that they skipped my class the next day to see someone in counseling (yes, I am aware that I am using the plural “they” with the singular “student,” but I am trying to be vague about certain specifics). When I mentioned this to one of my colleagues at another school, she said that she had encountered the same thing. This time, though, the student had a panic attack in the middle of class, saying later that the prospect of graduating was much more stressful than they expected.
Though these events surprised me when they happened, they make perfect sense. Graduating and looking for a job has always been exciting and stressful, but the economy has made finding a job even more stressful, and some of our students are feeling it intensely. And I don’t mean they feel some stress. I am talking about students having panic attacks that require medical care and much more than just a few deep breaths with a pep talk.
Though I planned to write this post a few weeks ago, it has become even more relevant for me in recent weeks. Last week, another good student who has taken several classes with me and grown into someone I respect and admire missed class and later emailed about a panic attack because graduation just seemed too close. And today, a student came to my office to apologize for being late to a class, saying, “I just didn’t think graduation would make me feel this stressed out.”
Usually, in these posts, we try to offer advice, but I admit I’m confused about what to do. Yes, I can refer students to counseling, but our campus counseling office is pretty respected and well-known by students. I try to tell them that things will be okay and speak about some of my struggles, but the words feel empty. And I have been fortunate enough to know what I was doing next after I earned almost each of my degrees, so I cannot speak from their position.
Have you noticed similar increased levels of stress in your students that don’t seem to match what you have seen in the past? What have you done or imagine you can do to help them out? Let us know in the comments, and hang in there.