Before looking into the matter of how and why mental health is important for students, it is necessary to properly understand the concept of mental health in its entirety.
The scope of mental health is vast. Every time you feel nervous in a social setting, it may not be due to bad mental health or social anxiety. It could just be the unfamiliarity of the surroundings and that can be simply overcome by some courage to start the conversation. However, understanding what is a normal or serious health issue can be very tricky.
However, differentiating a mental health problem from a normal negative emotion is a blurred line. So, it is important to be aware of what mental health is at its core.
What is Mental Health?
Like physical health; we have to take care of how we think, behave, and express ourselves as well.
One can suffer from mental health problems when they are having difficulty in any of these aspects- how they think, feel or express themselves. There could be multiple reasons why a person can start thinking, feeling, or expressing distress, disrupting sleeping or eating habits, and being lonely or isolated even if a crowd surrounds them.
You must have heard words like burnt out, depressed, anxiety, overwhelmed, etc.
Different minds have different ways to express their distress regarding mental health issues or problems and the solutions to these problems can be varied as well. But no solution is plausible unless and until you speak about it.
And when it comes to Mental health, there is so much stigma and taboo attached to it that the first step seems to be the biggest hurdle in our mental health journey.
India’s national mental health helpline KIRAN launched in 2020 stated 70% of calls were from men who admitted that they feel hesitant to talk about mental health and see depression as a sign of weakness. Experts are of the opinion that toxic masculinity and unrealistic norms of society prevent men from speaking about their mental health.
WHO (World Health Organization) observed that 1 out of every 8 people in the world suffers from mental disorders. In 2020, the number of anxiety and depression disorders increased from 26% to 28% significantly due to Covid 19 pandemic. The different types of mental disorders identified by WHO are-
- Anxiety disorders
- Bipolar disorders
- Post- Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Eating Disorders
- Disruptive behaviour and dissocial disorder.
- Neurodevelopmental disorders.
Now that we know what consists of mental problems and the scope of mental health problems, however, it is equally important to understand the causes of mental disorders. Society's expectations and cultural norms have a significant role in shaping a person’s mental and physical well-being.
Hence, identifying what is normal in one culture and what is not normal in another is important, especially for students and youth studying abroad and experiencing culture shock. Let’s find out the causes of mental illness in youth.
The causes of mental illness or disorders cannot be determined as easily as drawing a straight line. The most common factor that leads to mental disorders in today’s youth is poverty, malnutrition, physical and mental abuse, mental illness in parents, family conflict, bullying, academic failure, exposure to violence, and many more.
The topic of mental health has been under-researched in the field of medicine and science to the point that there is only one psychiatrist for over 2 lakh people according to the Indian Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. Hence, the causes of mental illness have not been explored as much.
India’s Social Justice and Empowerment Ministry also observed in their latest 2020 report that 32% of the participants were students who experienced anxiety, and depression due to social anxiety during the lockdown, and uncertainty for their future.
Hence, the causes of mental illness in youth can be the following or combinations of it as well-
- Childhood abuse or trauma.
- Loneliness / social isolation.
- Losing a close friend or family/ Survivor’s guilt
- Long-term disease or physical health condition.
- Unemployment/ Poverty.
- Drug and alcohol misuse.
- Domestic violence, bullying/cyberbullying, and abuse.
- Discrimination, racism, and sexism or such.
- Being a survivor/ victim of violent crime.
Some mental health issues might run in families. However, there is no medical evidence to support this argument. People may have faced one or two of these situations in their life to develop a serious mental disorder. Some of the common symptoms that will help you identify your mental conditions at the latest are-
- Panic Attacks
- Suicidal tendencies
- Hallucinations/ delusions
- Paranoia, etc.
Back in 2020, the Supreme Court of India issued a notice to IRDAI (Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India) seeking an explanation as to why there is still no coverage for Mental Health. This incident clearly proves that India is far behind in taking Mental health as a serious medical condition and why the importance of mental health for students should be primary.
Importance of mental health for students:
“I found that with depression, one of the most important things you can realize is that you’re not alone. You’re not the first to go through it, you’re not gonna be the last to go through it,” — Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
This quote from the Fast and Furious star clearly shows that mental illness can be curable and tolerable if you start feeling inclusive. From infancy to adulthood to old age, mental health is something that affects our emotional, psychological, and physical well-being throughout. That’s why it is important to spread awareness regarding mental health.
Focusing on mental health not only helps you bring peace to your mind but also has a positive effect on your physical and social well-being. Maintaining mental health can help prevent heart disease, and stress-induced disease and help cope with cancer and other terminal diseases. It directly affects our day-to-day life and also the well-being of people around us, especially kids. The following are the importance of mental health, especially for students -
- Improving your mood and preventing stress.
- Increasing your self-esteem and confidence.
- Reducing anxiety.
- Improving relationships.
- Staying physically fit and healthy.
- Increasing productivity and achieving your full potential.
- Treating mental health conditions.
- Overcome childhood disorders.
- Eradicating social anxiety and loneliness.
Speaking about mental health and asking for help is a sign of strength rather than weakness. Acknowledging and accepting that there is a problem increases the chances of finding the solutions and diagnosing the symptoms early. Maintaining good mental health is a process; it is not something that you can treat and get over once and for all. Some patients observed relapse after making full recovery as well. So, you need to be mindful and aware of your mental health and keep maintaining a good lifestyle and stay healthy even after making a full recovery.
Some famous Indian celebrities openly stated their mental disorder and their recovery journey -
- Manisha Koirala
- Yo Yo Honey Singh
- Shah Rukh Khan
- Deepika Padukone
- Anushka Sharma
- Varun Dhawan
- Randeep Hooda
Well, if your celebrities can suffer from severe mental illness and overcome it, so can you. So, don’t be afraid to speak up because you’re not alone in this journey. There are a lot of people out there ready to lend an ear and learn something from your experience and vice-versa.