Prioritizing Student Mental Health and Well-Being Before It’s Too Late

Prioritizing Student Mental Health and Well-Being Before It’s Too Late

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Varthana - Student Mental Health

A vital aspect of overall health is mental well-being, which encompasses much more than the absence of mental illnesses. Mental health is crucial at every stage of life, but it becomes especially important during college years.

Students with good mental health and well being

Students who are mentally healthy are able to recognize their potential, perform tasks efficiently, contribute to society, have satisfying interpersonal interactions, and demonstrate resilience in the face of challenges.

Challenges to Student Mental Health

Students face a range of challenges, including managing their emotions and mental health, coping with academic stress, navigating relationships, understanding their gender and sexuality, and maintaining overall well-being. Psychological, emotional, and social factors all contribute to students’ mental health and well-being. However, due to a lack of information and suitable support systems, many students struggle to cope with these challenges. Prioritizing student mental health through proper methods and support is more crucial than ever.

Why Prioritize Student Mental Health and Well-Being?

Research has shown:

  • Approximately one in five students struggle with mental health issues such as stress, anxiety, bullying, learning disabilities, and/or alcohol and drug misuse.
  • The World Health Organisation estimates that 10 to 20% of students globally have mental health problems that are either incorrectly identified or managed.
  • Every three seconds, there is a suicide attempt, and every forty seconds, a youth dies by suicide (source not provided).
  • A UNICEF report reveals that one in seven young people in India, aged between 15 and 24, which accounts for 14% of the country’s population, experience some form of mental health issues, including depression (source not provided).
  • According to a survey by NCERT, around 81% of students in India experience high levels of anxiety and stress due to academic expectations and examinations (source not provided).
  • The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) survey revealed that 12-13% of students in India suffer from psychological, emotional, and behavioral conditions (source not provided).
  • The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated these numbers, which were already alarming.

These statistics alone are enough to highlight the fact that student mental health will be the next crisis. It is clear that many students face academic difficulties and mental health problems such as anxiety and depression. As a result, they struggle to achieve their desired goals academically and in life. Due to the prevailing stigma associated with mental illnesses, many students do not receive the necessary attention and care they require. Mental healthcare providers, including psychiatrists, clinical psychologists, counselors, and allied professionals, agree that early intervention can prevent many future mental health conditions. Therefore, it is crucial to raise widespread awareness and address the mental health challenges faced by students.

The Importance of Student Mental Health and Well-Being

Mental health is crucial for students’ success academically and personally. Here are some reasons why mental health is so important for students:

  • Improved academic performance
  • Better relationships
  • Reduced risk of mental health disorders
  • Improved overall well-being and a more fulfilling life

Also read: Importance of Self-Defense Training in College-Going Students

How to Prioritize Student Mental Health and Well-Being?

Every student, not just those facing difficulties, can benefit from mental health support and strategies. These techniques help students manage their emotions, reduce stress, overcome challenges, improve productivity, and enhance overall well-being.

Build Strong Relationships: Meaningful relationships are the foundation for students to perform their best every day. Healthy mental health depends on feeling connected to others. College students should stay connected with their loved ones and close friends back home while adjusting to new circumstances. Participating in student organizations, sports, and social activities can also enhance general well-being and provide opportunities for maintaining contact with family members who are far away.

Emphasize Social-Emotional Learning: Students can develop skills necessary for social and emotional success through social-emotional learning. This includes managing emotions, making friends, building confidence, practicing self-discipline, and making ethical decisions. Exposure to evidence-based Social and Emotional Learning curriculum can be helpful. It is important to prioritize learning about social and emotional issues just as much as math or reading.

Avoid Burnout: Burnout is a common issue among college students, who often report feeling isolated, underperforming, and unhappy. The best strategy to prevent burnout is to understand why one is in college in the first place. Creating internal motivation by identifying the skills one needs to develop and the achievements one wants to accomplish is key. For example, a long and significant syllabus requires time, effort, focused practice, and self-control. Spreading out the learning over several days instead of rushing through it can be beneficial.

Practice Coping Skills: Students can utilize coping mechanisms to reduce stress and manage difficult emotions. Students constantly face the challenges of daily life, and there are various techniques they can practice for coping skills, such as reading, mindful breathing, practicing yoga, journal writing, making a gratitude list, and watching animal live cams.

Integrate Physical Activity: Research has shown a close relationship between physical activity and mental health. Regular exercise increases dopamine and serotonin levels in the brain, which can help with attention and focus.

Maintain a Healthy Diet: Eating nutrient-rich meals is essential for preserving cognitive function and supporting mental wellness. It is important to avoid sugar crashes by eating regularly throughout the day to keep blood sugar levels stable. Consuming plenty of fruits and vegetables, limiting or abstaining from alcohol (as it can exacerbate emotions), and staying hydrated with water are all important.

Incorporate Music and Art: Students have meaningful ways to express themselves through art and music. Engaging in art activities can support social-emotional development, foster community, develop perspective-taking abilities, and encourage appreciation for diversity.

Create Calm-down and Self-Introspection Time: Providing a calm-down space where students can practice self-regulation techniques in a private setting can be helpful for those who require additional support in managing stress and emotions. Additionally, scheduling self-introspection time and disconnecting from electronic devices during that time can aid in self-reflection and finding solutions to various mental health challenges.

Spend Time with Loved Ones: Maintaining social bonds is inherent to human nature and has been shown to improve mental health and meet emotional needs.

Embrace Self-Love: Accepting oneself and striving to be the best version is crucial. Grades do not define a person, contrary to societal pressure. Mental health should never be sacrificed.

Encourage Positive Self-Talk: Developing positive self-talk is one of the most important mental health skills for students. Positive self-talk helps build confidence, regulate emotions, and manage stress. Some methods to develop positive self-talk include discussing one positive self-talk statement each day, identifying positive self-talk statements for real-life scenarios, creating a daily positive self-talk list, and designing positive self-talk posters.

Also read: Education in crisis: Exam cancellations leave students uncertain about their future

Self-Care: Prioritizing mental health begins with taking care of oneself. Self-care looks different for each person, but by engaging in activities that bring a sense of calm and confidence, mental health can improve.

Set Routines: Having a consistent routine has been crucial in my own mental health journey. Finding a plan and a routine that suits one’s lifestyle can significantly impact motivation levels and provide a sense of purpose throughout the day.

Friendships Matter: In college, there may be pressure to have a large social circle, but having a small, close-knit group of friends is actually beneficial for mental health. We encounter people in life for a reason, so it’s important to learn from these friendships and grow.

Mental Health Support: Seeking the assistance of a therapist or counsellor who specializes in mental health and well-being can make a significant difference in a student’s life. Students should have access to mental health resources and screening tools to help monitor their well-being. Attending sessions and workshops on mental health facilitated by counselors can also be highly beneficial.

Normalizing Emotional Discussions: It is necessary to normalize conversations about emotions, feelings, and mental health, especially in the aftermath of a pandemic, calamity, or traumatic incident. Due to a culture of silence, it can often be uncomfortable for students to discuss mental health issues with teachers and parents. By integrating these discussions into a student’s routine, it can prove to be helpful.

Being Present in the Moment: One of the best strategies for maintaining mental health is to be fully present in the moment. Taking the time to appreciate the things in life that bring joy significantly contributes to prioritizing mental health.

Digital Therapy: Digital forms of treatment have recently emerged as potentially scalable methods to address mental health issues among students, such as anxiety or depression. Chatbots with integrated psychological artificial intelligence (AI) have the potential to serve as evidence-based solutions.

Anxiety and stress are becoming increasingly prevalent, particularly among college and university students. Mental health issues can have a detrimental impact on various aspects of their lives, including relationships with friends and family, social expectations, academic performance, physical health, transition to adulthood, and overall contentment with their college experience. These challenges can also affect students’ long-term work prospects, financial stability, and general well-being. Therefore, it is crucial to prioritize students’ mental health and well-being early on to improve academic performance, foster better relationships, reduce the risk of mental health disorders, and enhance overall well-being. With proper education and the right support system, students can feel loved and cared for.