We are the snowflake generation, but is it really a bad thing?

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Alas, email-gate continues. 

The outcry Professor Eugene Terentjev’s ‘warning’ to students studying Phys-Nat Sci at Queen’s has dominated the interests of the Daily Mail. Journalist Eleanor Harding was first to publish her unsurprisingly narrow account of the ‘revolt of Cambridge cry-babies’, which did a truly wonderful job of trivialising issues of mental health. Sadly, the article failed to capture the true reason for student opposition to the email.

Ultimately, students accept that a heavy workload is to be expected, but the ability to decide how to deal with this workload should not be dictated by those who set the work. Certainly, we should not be dissuaded from adopting a work-life balance that suits us. Coping mechanisms differ hugely from one person to the next, and for many it is the social aspects of University that help us remember the importance of perspective. 

Interestingly, the email’s message is one that is conveyed to Nat Sci freshers at Queen’s every year, yet only this year has this attitude been challenged.  Far from indicating an aversion to hard-work, our opposition to the email implies a greater student understanding of the work-life balance needed to perform at maximum capacity. Surely, the awareness of such a balance should be celebrated, rather than criticised by the national press. 

Unfortunately, on Sunday morning, a further article claimed that there is now a national crisis – dubbed ‘the rise of the Snowflake Generation’ – as students struggle more than ever with the pressures of university life. Professor Alan Smithers, of Buckingham University’s Centre for Employment and Education Research, blamed this trend on the national movement towards greater mental health awareness in universities. Of course, a movement which aims to decrease the record-high student suicide rate can only be described as a necessity, and cannot be condemned as a scheme which students ‘take advantage of’.

The article argues that our predecessors coped better with the student work-load, and it is claimed that this is shown by the increasing number of reported cases of stress-related illnesses amongst students.  However, if it is true that we are in fact the ‘Snowflake Generation’, this only proves our increasing ability to admit feelings of stress and anxiety and access the help we need. The weakness once associated with disclosing mental health problems finally seems to be dissipating. 

At Oxbridge especially, the ability to become lost amongst essay deadlines and reading lists is a largely unavoidable aspect of the experience. Rather than reverting to the fact that ‘we knew what we signed up for’, swallowing our pride and admitting to difficulties is rightly becoming an indication of personal strength.  If we are to be called the ‘Snowflake Generation’, then this can only be testament to our acceptance that stress and anxiety ought to be taken seriously. Embracing the delicacy of mental health is crucial; we are the first generation to realise this fact.

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