How the Leaving Cert uncertainty is impacting my mental health

This reader talks about how continuing with the Leaving Cert 2020 is causing stress to many students
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I, like many other young people, have a fairly changeable relationship with anxiety. I would like to think for the most part that I’m a fairly relaxed person. I’m quite easy going and I’m not one to stress about trivial things. I am often aware of my worries and anxieties yet I’m almost always able to calm my thoughts and put my worries to the back of my mind. I control it, it does not control me. However, sometimes I’m left with a feeling of dread, deep within the pit of my stomach. The feeling of being powerless, being isolated, of being completely and utterly helpless. It is a feeling which is hard to define yet is something we all experience.


Leaving Cert 2020 during COVID-19


That feeling that was once a rarity has become a central emotion for me in my Leaving Cert Class of 2020 with the COVID-19/Coronavirus pandemic. A part of me feels a sense of guilt for writing this. There is a pandemic gripping the world. It’s extremely self indulgent to be writing about a State Exam when the world is falling apart. I understand this and am fairly self aware of my ‘selfishness’ but I know I’m not the only student feeling this way. As I write this, Minister McHugh stated that he was determined “on a personal level” as far as I’m aware to continue with the Leaving and Junior Certificate in June.

My heart dropped when I heard this news. I know I’m not the only one who feels immense fear at the idea of sitting an exam in June despite not being at school since March. Not just any exam but an exam that determines our future, our career path and our opportunities in life. As it stands, I must complete the rest of the course in my subjects by myself. I am receiving links to resources but very few online classes. I know this differs from school to school and some schools are able to facilitate much more online learning. The workload in front of me is so huge, I feel powerless. As the days to the exam come closer I feel even more helpless as it is simply too much.


Not the priority


I noticed that Joe mcHugh retweeted a Leaving Cert resource commenting “a great resource IF you can get online.” If he is acknowledging that not all students in this country can access the internet how is he so insistent that the exams must go ahead? It is no secret that the vast majority of students are completely against the idea of sitting the exams come June. We are in the middle of a pandemic and the exam has no longer become a priority. We are concerned about the welfare of our grandparents, parents and friends. We are concerned about parents working in the health service, and businesses having to shut down completely. In these times we have had to completely reassess what is important to us. The Leaving Cert is certainly not the most important thing in the world.

So why is the government so determined for it to go ahead, when we simply cannot? The uncertainty and pressure is seriously impacting the mental health of students across the country. They are placing us under untold stress in the middle of a pandemic when all we care about is the health and safety of those close to us. The stubbornness to carry on with the State Exams so as to carry out some blind tradition, is sickening. It seems to me the Minister is refusing to listen to those he is supposed to represent, to the detriment of our mental health. We deserve better. We do not deserve to be the product of poor leadership on the Minister’s part.


Finding a solution


The answer of predicted grades is plainly spelled out in my opinion. There is simply, no better option. Students deserve the same clarity as those in the UK, France, Malta and many other place. I feel completely voiceless. Students across Ireland are being written off as ‘selfish’ or ‘melodramatic.’ As the days roll on my motivation is completely crumbling. We are no doubt living in unprecedented times and unprecedented measures must be taken. The Olympics, Wimbledon, Eurovision and many more so called ‘cultural institutions’ have been cancelled, so why not the Leaving Cert? So I would ask, Minister McHugh, what do the young people of Ireland mean to you?


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