The WHO (World Health Organization) describes mental health as: “a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.”
Furthermore, the WHO accentuates that mental health “is not just the absence of mental disorder.”Mental health also includes a person’s ability to enjoy life. It affects our daily life, relationships and physical health. It’s effect on our mood and ability to function throughout the day can impact all spheres of our lives. So much so, that it becomes challenging to maintain focus, find motivation for tasks and relate to peers and colleagues for those struggling with mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, an eating disorder or addiction.
In today’s world, the life of a student is quite stressful. Constantly trying to strike a perfect balance between a school/college life and personal life, such as, academics, curricular activities, other personal responsibilities and relationships can exhaust them physically and emotionally. This directly impacts their mental health.
It is said that, approximately, one in five youth aged 13–18 years live with mental health conditions and apparently, mental health issues develop prior to the age of 24 in about 75 percent of people.
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Therefore, we need to understand that mental health conditions can prove to be alarming if not recognized and addressed on time. Sound mental health is just as important for teachers and students as it is for the rest of the world.
The importance of mental health for students
Students are young and vulnerable and they tend to easily fall victim to the mental illnesses. Sometimes, even education becomes a pain when they face a lot of pressure from home, their studies and financial responsibilities. It can have an overpowering and devastating effect, causing the students to become overly anxious and stressed. Although, one in four students is believed to be suffering from a diagnosable mental illness, 40% of them don’t seek help.
One of the reasons that top the list of why students drop out of school/college is depression. Our mental health has a direct impact on our ability to process new information, learn new concepts and master new skills. At times, it can go beyond their bounds of possibility to concentrate, work on assignments and attend classes when struggling with depression, anxiety or other mental health issues.
The most common mental health issue seen amongst the people is anxiety disorder, especially in adolescents. Being regularly exposed to high levels of anxiety and anxiety disorders such as generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and social anxiety disorder, can be debilitating although a certain level of anxiety and stress can be useful in motivating the students to prepare for exams or complete assignments on time.
Today, there is an increased need for student mental health services to be made available than in the past years, as it not only supports the psychological well being of students but it also plays a significant role in their academic success and retention.
Schools and colleges are the best places for the students to actively learn and become aware of mental health, mental health problems and mental disorders. This is because apart from home, the young people spend most of their time in schools/colleges. Keeping this in mind, various methods and programs that aid in developing and delivering interventions so as to improve the mental health of the students should be administered in the educational institutions.
Educating the students on mental health issues and awareness programs with open discussions on these topics can help in doing away with the stigma around mental health. Teaching stress reduction techniques, prioritizing wellness, focusing on gratitude and having clear boundaries between ‘student life’ and their personal lives can all help in improving the mental health of our students. It is also reported that exercise, sleep, and diet can help students feel better or worse, depending on how well they take care of themselves.
Several other techniques that help students deal with mental health issues are:
– Receiving treatment from psychological and medical professionals when necessary.
– Thoughtful and consistent meals.
– Healthy sleep habits.
– Regular exercise.
– Meditation and other relaxation activities/exercises.
– Staying engaged and productive.
– Music, art, and other creative outlets.
– Talking to peers.
– Unplugging – having downtime from technology.
– Spending time with pets.
– Strengthening their support network.
– Setting goals.
These are some of the great ways for students to improve their mood and develop a sense of purpose and fulfillment. This is very effective in boosting the self-esteem of the students and it helps them feel better and manage difficult emotions more efficiently.
Students with mental health conditions need not suffer alone in silence. Just as much as it’s necessary for them to reach out for help, so also is it vital for the elders whom they look up to, to reach out to them. This young group of people, who are the future of our society, need our love, care, support and time more than ever.