Long isolation and social distancing measures, the lockdowns, and the fear of the pandemic have created a state of high anxiety and depression in students. According to the World Health Organization, about 350 million people of all ages suffer from depression, making it the leading cause of disability worldwide. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) reports that about one-third of adolescents experience an anxiety disorder.
Most students who are struggling with mental health issues do not get the help they need. A study by the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine showed that only 50 per cent of college students with mental health conditions sought treatment. This is probably due to the stigma attached to mental health issues and the lack of knowledge about where to seek help.
Students need to seek help for mental health issues. Untreated mental health conditions can lead to problems in school, work, and relationships. They can also increase the risk of suicide.
What kinds of mental health issues students are facing?
Students are facing a variety of mental health issues, including anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and addiction.
- Anxiety is one of the most common mental health conditions. It is characterized by excessive worry, fear, and stress. Symptoms can include a racing heart, shortness of breath, dizziness, and nausea. The main reasons for anxiety in students are academic pressure, social media, and relationship problems.
The COVID-19 pandemic has disturbed the academic and career planning of many students which has increased their anxiety levels. Being stuck at home alone or with families for an extended period is also a leading cause of social anxiety.
- Depression is a mood disorder that causes feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and emptiness. It can lead to problems with eating, sleeping, and concentration. Students may be more likely to experience depression if they have a family history of mental health conditions, if they are struggling with school or work, or if they are using substances such as alcohol or drugs.
The pandemic has added to the stress levels of students and has resulted in an increase in depression. Many international students are stuck in war-ridden areas and many Ukrainians have lost their homes forever. International students in Europe are also experiencing the fear of getting caught in a similar situation if the war gets closer to their homes. This turn of events leaves many feeling isolated and hopeless.
The lack of social interaction and exposure to daylight also contributes to depression.
- PTSD is a condition that can develop after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event. Symptoms can include flashbacks, nightmares, irritability, and difficulty concentrating. The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a lot of traumatic events for students, such as the fear of getting sick and losing loved ones. Many lost their loved ones.
Russian-Ukraine war has also taken place and students from there are experiencing PSTD. In such conditions, seeking professional help is very important.
- Addiction is a condition that involves compulsive drug or alcohol use. It can lead to health problems, social isolation, and financial problems. Students may be more likely to develop an addiction if they have a family history of mental health conditions, if they are struggling with school or work, or if they are using substances such as alcohol or drugs.
The pandemic has resulted in an increase in the use of alcohol and drugs as people try to cope with the stress. The lack of social interaction and fear of getting sick is also leading to an increase in addiction.
Students need to get help for their mental health issues. Many resources are available online and offline, including counselling services, psychiatric clinics, and support groups. Students can also seek help from their health care provider or campus mental health centre.
What should schools and universities do to promote mental health awareness in students?
Schools and universities do several things to destigmatize mental health issues, increase awareness in students, and encourage them to seek help if required. Some of the steps they can take include:
- Creating a policy on mental health that includes a definition of mental health, information on how to get help, and what kind of support is available.
- Offering counselling services for students who are struggling with mental health issues.
- Providing training for staff and faculty on how to identify and respond to students who are struggling with mental health issues.
- Encouraging students to talk about their mental health and share their experiences with others.
- Promoting healthy coping mechanisms, such as exercise, relaxation techniques, and journaling.
- Raising awareness about the signs and symptoms of mental health conditions and the importance of seeking help.
- Partnering with organizations that provide support for students who are struggling with mental health issues.
- Hosting online and offline events to raise awareness about mental health and connect students with resources.
- Disseminating information about mental health on campus websites and social media platforms.
- Encouraging students to seek help for their mental health issues.
What can students do if they are struggling with mental health issues?
Students can do many things if they are struggling with mental health issues. They can talk to a trusted adult about their feelings and concerns, seek counselling or psychiatric help, participate in support groups, and exercise regularly.
TutorHelp.Club experts offer some practical and powerful tips to deal with their mental health issues and improve their academic performance, social relationships, and overall quality of life. These include:
- Mindfulness Exercises: Mindfulness is a form of meditation that helps people focus on the present moment. It can help them become aware of their thoughts and feelings and learn to accept them without judgement. There are many mindfulness exercises that students can do, such as focusing on their breath, walking mindfully, or eating mindfully.
- Yoga: Yoga is a form of exercise that combines stretching and relaxation. It can help students to relieve stress, improve their mood, and increase their energy. Some asanas helpful for students with mental health issues are Child’s Pose, Camel Pose, and Downward-Facing Dog.
- Talk to a Trusted Adult: Students can talk to a trusted adult about their feelings and concerns. This could be a parent, teacher, counsellor, or therapist. If you find it difficult to talk about your vulnerabilities, you might start with writing about them in a journal.
- Challenge Negative Thoughts: Students can challenge negative thoughts by asking themselves whether they are true or not. They can do this by writing down their thoughts and then challenging them. They can also try to replace negative thoughts with positive ones. One way to do this is to write down three good things that happened that day.
- Set Realistic Goals: Students can set realistic goals for themselves and strive to achieve them. This can help them feel more in control of their lives and boost their self-esteem. One strategy to make sure your goals are realistic is to break them down into smaller tasks and assign how much time you will take to complete each one.
- Get Enough Sleep: Lack of sleep can lead to fatigue, irritability, and mood swings. Students should aim to get at least eight hours of sleep per night. If you are not getting enough sleep, you should consider going to bed and waking up at the same time each day, avoiding caffeine and alcohol before bedtime, and avoiding using electronic devices in bed.
- Stay Connected: Students can stay connected to their friends and family by spending time with them, talking to them online or on the phone, and sending text messages. Staying connected can help reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness. In war zones, you should try to contact your loved ones via social media as text messages and phone calls may not be possible.
- Seek Professional Help: If students are struggling with mental health issues, they should seek professional help. This could mean going to a counsellor, therapist, or psychiatric clinic. Mental health care providers can offer treatments, such as medication and therapy, that can help students manage their mental health issues.
- Be Active and Engaged: Students can be active and engaged in their communities by getting involved in extracurricular activities, volunteering, or attending community events. Doing things that make them feel good and give them a sense of purpose can help improve their mood and mental health.
Students must be aware of their mental health and take steps to manage it. By following the tips above, students can improve their academic performance, social relationships, and overall quality of life.