Architecture is one of the toughest professions to pursue. There I said it! Although on the forefront it may seem like a field of creativity and pretty drawings, deep down lies the truth. Students have to embark on a five-year journey of education to become an architect. But school life is no bed of roses. Pulling all-nighters, skipping meals, forgoing extracurricular social activities, and rarely exercising to finish projects on time is becoming a lifestyle pattern for the students. Mental health issues and increased stress levels are becoming synonymous with architecture students’ lifestyles.
But what are the Triggers?
As everyone is unique, their mental disorders triggers too are unique. But the most common aspects that are contributing to the overwhelming situation in mental health catastrophe-
The infamous Workloads and Deadlines
From the very first day of our education, we were informed by our professors to get accustomed to the work pressure. IT’S THE NEW NORMAL!! As the course caters to various areas of architecture, there are tons of subjects, and associated with it are the end number of submissions. The students are often occupied with doing work. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but the balance between studies and other aspects of life goes for a toss.
Throughout the semesters, students have to go through multiple deadlines. Sometimes, the pressure hikes even further when an accumulated submission of 2-3 subjects falls in a week! This equates to an increased pressure level and goodbye to proper sleep.
The length of the course is an added level of pressure on students. In comparison to other fields, Architecture requires a lot of commitment- a time that can be fun and creative but also stressful and confusing at the same time.
An architecture student requires a lot of patience and strong willpower to see your friends graduating and making a living while you are struggling with time to finish an assignment at a given time.
Cost of Study
Well, it’s no new news that studying architecture is an expensive affair- not least because of the length of the course. On top of the course fee, the expenses have still not come to an end. Architecture students have to spend on model-making, stationery, study tours, and computer software. But the worries continue due to the scary look of bank balance- as the amount of workload does not assure good income.
Uncertainty of Professional Practice
The architecture practice is related to construction. And as being a part of the construction industry, architecture is quite vulnerable to economic ups and downs. The market fluctuation can potentially affect your practice- which can be stressful. And to no ease, you still have to pay architecture school debts.
Financial problems are one of the leading reasons for students becoming susceptible to mental health disorders and eventually dropping out of school.
As part of the curriculum, students are expected to work under a practicing architect to gain professional knowledge. It sounds all good and pleasant on paper, but the reality is always quite different. The struggle begins from the very start, from finding the right office to negotiating for salary. The students are either just burdened with tons of work or are just left negated and used as house help to assist in the functioning of the office. The exploitation that a student has to face to gain a little knowledge is immense and nerve-wracking. And not to mention, the reward of earning peanuts for all the workload is a cherry on top of anxiety and depression.
Is Suffering the Key to success?
In the studio, we often come across students who proudly boast about pulling an all-nighter to finish the project. Though the hard work is admirable, it should not be applauded! It just shows poor time management skills. A good night’s sleep is as beneficial as completing a submission, and a lack of it can lead to serious health disorders.
“Institutions perpetuating student exhaustion shame our industry.”
As for competition, having healthy competition is good and can challenge oneself to outperform their potential. It can also be a cause of stress. It becomes a problem when the competition gets on our heads and the idea of outperforming the potential turns into outperforming others’ work.
A large number of submissions, all-nighters, lack of organization from the faculty, coinciding deadlines, poor social life, and financial troubles combined can create havoc in a student’s brain. The school becomes a 24/7 job which can sometimes lead to burnout. The incapability to produce any work while other colleagues are keeping up with the work leads to a lack of self-confidence and stress. The breakdowns and isolation due to stress and lack of sleep can lead to depression and in some cases even thoughts of suicide.
Studying architecture should be a practice of developing a creative side of the brain rather than creating a mess in the brain. Suffering and struggling to cope through the course is no key to success!
What are the Signs?
As mentioned above, every individual is different, and so are the signs of their mental health deterioration. It can be tricky to recognize and even more difficult to explain to others.
Current Scenario in India
As vague as the unicorns are, the concept of mental health is considered equally stigmatized and the other world thing. The lack of awareness leads to this irrational belief that affects everyone. The stigma society holds about mental health binds the schools to even ponder upon these factors. Architecture schools, like any other schools, require a system that prioritizes the mental and physical well-being of the student. At a time when mindfulness and meditation are all over social media, it is still off the table in the case of the education field.
The impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic cannot be disregarded when talking about mental health. The pandemic contributed to an increase in adult mental illnesses.
According to a survey by UNICEF, in contrast to the average of 83 percent across the 21 countries, just 41% of young people in India seek assistance for mental health issues. The current situation requires immediate attention to students’ mental health with professional support.
Certainly, there is a need for reformation in the educational system of architecture. But before those small reforms at the individual and institutional levels can make a big impact. As an architecture student, our job is to design spaces where people feel good and live comfortably. On the other hand, we fail to adhere to those mere concepts in our day-to-day practice. It is of uttermost significance to prioritize health and forgo any toxic practice!
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