Despite a sometimes calm exterior, many students often experience a battle with anxiety.
The stress of papers, exams and deadlines can prove too much for some students, resulting in full-blown anxiety attacks and depression.
The Anxiety Disorders Association of Canada (ADAC) is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting, preventing, treating and managing anxiety disorders.
According to ADAC, “A person with an anxiety disorder may find it difficult to function in areas of life such as social interactions, family relationships, work or school.”
Alex Austin, a 20-year-old graduate of SAIT’s Radio, Television and Broadcast News (RTBN) program, suffers from chronic anxiety.
“To me, an anxiety attack feels like your chest is compressing and you lose all control of your breathing,” said Austin.
“It automatically feels like your world is ending and your hands start to get all tingly and clench. It feels like you are on the verge of passing out.
“When the attack passes you feel exhausted, but the anxiety doesn’t go away.”
Austin, who had her first anxiety attack in high school, said the situations that give her the most fear are the ones she’s never experienced before, such as travelling alone, being around people she doesn’t know, and public speaking.
A 2013 survey conducted by the Canadian Association of College and University Student Services (CACUSS) revealed that almost 90 per cent of students felt overwhelmed by all they had to do in the past year.
According to CACUSS, the survey contained the “largest amount of data ever collected on the health of Canadian post-secondary students,” involving more than 30,000 students from 30 Canadian institutions.
More than 56 per cent of students admitted to experiencing overwhelming anxiety, with over 37 per cent feeling so depressed that it was difficult to function.
“Being a student was the most stressful time of my life,” said Austin.
Marcel Carpenter has been an instructor and on-campus pastor with SAIT for more than 30 years.
As a communications instructor, Carpenter has taught classes in programs across campus, ranging from avionics and nuclear medicine, to petroleum engineering and welding.
During his time at SAIT, Carpenter has had many students come to him in need of help problem-solving, some in relation to anxiety.
“I think that every relationship begins with conversation,” he said.
Carpenter currently holds Bible studies three times per week, which allows students the opportunity for spiritual healing.
“The spiritual side of things, as far as I’m concerned, is far more exciting.”
Carpenter admits that there are some subjects he won’t touch. However, he will send these students to where they will receive the best treatment.
“I can triage.
“Sometimes, things that seem macro, end up being quite micro in the light of the big picture.”
Austin has learned to control her anxiety through exercise, breathing techniques and talking out her problems with those closest to her instead of bottling them up inside.
I have both sought help and helped myself by putting my thoughts out into the world. – Alex Austin
“I’ve come to understand when I’m having an anxiety attack now and can calm myself down before it becomes too much for me to handle,” said Austin.
“Now that I’m doing what I love, and am surrounded by people that support me, I know I can trust.
“I feel much more confident and comfortable with myself.”
Carpenter believes that entering into people’s microcosms will destroy you.
“Once you recognize it, and take your precautions on not getting sucked into it, that’s the tough part.
“Be yourself, because the pressure to be someone else is overwhelming in every institution.”