‘Exam stress can trigger mental health disorders,’ warns health expert

todayOctober 26, 2023 202 1

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As learners gear up for their final examinations for the year, Community Health and Wellbeing Lead at Anglo American, Dr Alex Plowright, says this is a crucial time for child and adolescent mental health.

The 2023 National Senior Certificate examinations are set to commence on Monday, with thousands of Grade 12 learners sitting down for the all-important matric exams.

Plowright says mental health can negatively impact young people’s mindset during exams, causing them to lose focus; become more forgetful, and ultimately, fail their examination.

According to research by UNICEF, it is estimated that more than 13% of adolescents aged 10-19 live with a diagnosed mental disorder, representing 86 million adolescents aged 15-19 and 80 million adolescents aged 10-14.

Speaking to YNews, Dr Alex Plowright, says peers, parents and family can play a major role in giving support to learners during this stressful time.


The research shows that anxiety and depression make up about 40% of these diagnosed mental disorders; the others include attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, conduct disorder, intellectual disability, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, autism, schizophrenia and a group of personality disorders.

In addition, almost 46 000 adolescents die from suicide each year, among the top five causes of death for their age group.

Experts say the consequences of failing to address adolescent mental health conditions extend to adulthood, impairing both physical and mental health and limiting opportunities to lead fulfilling lives as adults. In addition, mental health directly impacts social ills such as grinding poverty, endemic joblessness, gender-based violence (GBV) as well as alcohol and drug abuse.

Dr Alex says social media can also play a major role in increasing mental disorders in young people.

“What you see on social media makes people envious. It often creates issues associated with for example self esteem that can manifests as enhanced mental health deficit, particularly for young people who are vulnerable to this kind of issue.”

Below are Dr Alex’s tips on how to deal with mental disorders:

  1. Recognising stress triggers
  2. Take care of yourself
  3. Eating healthy
  4. Getting enough rest
  5. Reducing the intake of alcohol and other substances
  6. Taking some time out
  7. Engaging with friends and other people, where possible


Written by: Nonhlanhla Harris

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