Year 12 exam stress: Supporting someone we know

With the year’s end rounding the corner, for many it’s the season closing of chapters and preparing for new beginnings. This is particularly relevant to those young people who are finishing off their final exams of their high school career and preparing for what comes next. This can be a stressful period for young people, with the stress for exams and worries about what the future holds, it’s a time when they require extra support from those around them and their community. To learn more about how we can support exam takers during this time, I spoke with Jayne Ferguson, Senior Clinician and Assistant Manager at Relationships Australia Victoria, about strategies for success and how best to apply them to our own lives.

What signs will there be that someone isn’t coping well with exam related stress?

Jayne suggests be on the lookout for signs such as:

  • withdrawal from usual activities or lack of interest in things they used to enjoy
  • extreme changes in temperament – an extroverted child who is suddenly reclusive
  • outbursts of anger
  • excessive talking that might indicate anxiety
  • sleeping too much or not enough
  • avoiding family and friends
  • changes to dietary habits.


There may also be physical symptoms such as a stress rash or frequent headaches, in this instance its best to encourage them to see a GP.

What can I do to help them during this time?

Sometimes the best thing to do is to speak up, to simply voice your concerns and provide a verbal reinforcement of your support for your loved one can be the reassurance they need. Jayne suggests phrases such as “you seem stressed” or “is there something I can do to help?” Don’t forget to be mindful of your approach, including your tone of voice and the time you choose to bring it up. Suggest that even if they don’t feel comfortable sharing their worries with you, that they should talk to one of their four support people or refer them to our ‘Coping with Exam Stress’ article or other resources for self-help.

Additionally, Jayne suggest acts of kindness to show your support. Take the pressure off the student by picking up some of their chores during exam period, or offering to help with study. You could always read their flashcards to them, or have them explain a concept to you (this is good practice for translating knowledge into their own words, which is often a requirement of exam questions).


For more, check out these links:

  2. Smiling mind app, headspace app, Kids Helpline


The author Kelly White is the Project Officer for Neighbour Day and a recent university graduate with a degree in communications and media. Her sister Hayley is currently sitting her HSC exams.