Exam season.

If I read over texts with friends from the past few weeks, I'm pretty sure that 'stressed' would be my most commonly used word. Snapchat shows a sea of papers and textbooks with time filters reading '02:45'. My twitter timeline is littered with countless sarcastic tweets describing emotional breakdowns in various combinations of 140 characters. We share our pain in humour and relatable jokes, but in reality, there is nothing funny about the immense weight on each of our shoulders during exam season.

Some may view the period as a good thing, indeed the current government will push the idea of challenging students and showing them the way into self motivated work, but, when teenagers are crying in their rooms and having panic attacks by their desks at the thought of an exam hall, something is going wrong. We internalise a pressure to spend every waking moment revising, feeling guilty for resting, guilty for socialising, even guilty for sleeping; all of which should simply be considered basic human activity. Exams are stripping away our ability to care for ourselves. Mental health becomes second to work, a dangerous prospect in a society where mental illnesses are stigmatised by the population and uncared for by health services.

Exam season is the time you're expected to be at your peak, but its hard to put on your best performance when you feel like you've been worked to the point of desperation before you get there. The system is, ultimately, skewed; good only for those who are superhuman, untouched by stress and perfect at regurgitating information in a way the examiners will appreciate.

With a post as gloomy as this one, I wish I had a more positive note to end on, something to say the future is brighter, but recent reforms seek only to make studying harder for teenagers, with little promise shown for respecting mental health. So instead, I encourage you to take your fate into your own hands; feel no guilt for sleeping a full night, feel no shame for spending one evening a week with your friends. Sure, take your exams seriously, but, if you can help it, don't let this system steal your soul.

Anna C.