"Around this time of the year, when exams are around the corner, we have students coming to us for various stress-related symptoms, ranging from mild to severe. This year too we have students approaching us for anxiety, hopelessness, loss of sleep and appetite. At times it's more serious, like depression, suicidal tendencies and schizophrenia," Sameer Malhotra, head of the mental health and behavioural science department at Max Hospital in Delhi, told IANS.
The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) Class 12 exams will get under way March 1.
"It's astonishing how much stress a child undergoes during this period," said Suchi Borah, a student counsellor at a private school. "Up to a certain limit, stress helps you perform better. Beyond that, it becomes distress. Every child is different and some are more vulnerable than others. Hence, everyone has their own coping ability. There is pressure of performance by parents, comparison with peers and high cut-offs for college admissions ahead. Support from all quarters in this period is very important".
"To add to that, children at this stage are adolescents, and are also coping with biological changes," Malhotra added.
Snehi, an NGO which runs a pre-exam Disha helpline (011-65978181) every year before the CBSE board exams, has been flooded with anxious calls from students since it became operational Feb 1.
Snehi director Abdul Mabood said: "In 2012, received 1,497 calls, of which 94 percent were distressed students. There were calls from parents too. In our 14 years' experience of running this helpline, we have realised that the mounting stress during the pre-exam period is not just detrimental to a child's future career but also to their physical and mental health".
In the run-up to the exam day, time management is crucial to effectively manage stress, experts say.
"This is a crucial period for students and time management is important. They should make time tables and plan on how to do revision of their subjects. You need not stick to a particular time of the day - depending on your comfort, you can study early morning or late night," Ruchi Seth, principal of the Delhi Public School (DPS), Gurgaon, told IANS. She also advised against private coaching.
Qualitative studying, rather than quantitative, is what counts, added Prashant Parashar B., principal of G.D. Goenka school, Agra. "Intermittent studying, with space for relaxation, is effective. In my 15 years' experience as a teacher, I have never seen quantitative studying as beneficial. In fact, if forced, students while away their time instead of being able to focus".
Parashar also advised solving sample papers and practising written work.
Samir Parikh, director of the mental health and behavioural science department at Fortis Healthcare, had a word of advice for parents. "Parents should not project their anxiety on the kids during this time. Instead, they should take care of the child's diet and ensure that he or she takes time out to relax in between studies".
"I also think that schools should start teaching examination skills to students. It has become very crucial in today's times," Parikh told IANS.