People who live in Wellington are likely to be some of the most highly-strung individuals in the country, according to information released by the Ministry of Health.
Recent statistics show that nearly one in 14 people within the Capital and Coast District Health Board zone is likely to have anxiety or a depressive disorder. This puts Wellington in third place for the most stressed-out region in New Zealand, behind Hawke’s Bay and Manukau.
Wellington’s government and university sectors have been identified as being key contributors to its overall psychological strain.
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Our infamously relentless winds were also considered a potential factor.
Wellington Anxiety Specialists clinical psychologist Michael Burrows explained the impact of over-stimulation on stress levels: “wind noise on the windows and the whistling of the wind increases the cognitive load.”
VUWSA Welfare Vice President Madeleine Ashton-Martyn said many different factors contribute to the strained mental health of Victoria’s students.
“Studying in Wellington isn’t easy; coursework is stressful, the quality of housing is severely lacking, it’s difficult to find work with adequate wages. All these factors combined contribute to the issue.”
When interviewed, students at Victoria provided an array of contrasting comments regarding their own personal levels of stress and what those could be attributed to.
While the most common culprit of consternation was university workloads, some students did identify the weather as an influential factor.
“Storms, flooding—it’s not very good studying while knee deep in water,” Joel Rudolph said.
Another student said that “if you don’t come in, it’s stressful because you’ve missed [lectures], but coming is such a mission when it’s raining and stuff.”
However, rough weather and stress appeared generally to have little impact on students’ opinions of the city.
“Even though all this shit happens you’re still happy to be here,” Émilie Hope said. “I don’t think it would deter anyone.”
Other students felt no real stress at all. One student opined that “vices are the best form of stress relief” and recommended “sinning in all senses of the word”.
Yet there was a general consensus that, should students be feeling overwhelmed, they were aware of the Student Health Services provided by Victoria to alleviate health concerns—physical or mental.
“I think we’re seeing the beginning of a real turning point at Vic,” Ashton-Martyn told Salient. “There’s a huge amount of work going on—particularly from Student Health—to address these issues.”
In 2014, 9195 students used the Student Health Service and 39,227 individual medical health consultations were provided, while in Student Counselling, 2185 students were registered and 6585 sessions took place.
Pam Thorburn, Director of Student Academic Services, told Salient that “health and wellbeing is a high priority for Victoria” and said a “myriad of initiatives” have been set up to address issues of stress and anxiety within the University.
These include the development of university-wide mental health and wellbeing plans for both staff and students, the establishment of a new University Wellbeing Committee, Staff Wellness Month, Stress Free Study Week, numerous workshops and campaigns across the University, as well as the provision of free influenza vaccinations.