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Mental Health and Students

Today’s students are tomorrow’s citizens. They are crucial in shaping the society and the country for generations to come. India has a huge number of students, almost 37.4 million, enrolled in higher education. Yet, as per the National Mental Health Survey of India (2015-16), almost 9.8 million of them are in need of active mental health interventions! Anxiety, depression, stress, substance use are some of the most commonly encountered concerns, not to mention the rising number of student suicides. Additionally, many other commonly faced mental health issues continue to remain unaddressed – especially among students.

Fatigue, stress, anxiousness, irritability, sleep difficulties, mood swings, and outbursts – these are considered as a normal part of college life, and that’s where the root of the problem lies. College is a sensitive, formative phase of the student life. It is meant to be a learning experience, a struggle for growth; not something that causes distress and agony. These signs are actually a red flag that something is wrong and should not be ignored. If unaddressed, it can not only affect their mental wellbeing, but also their physical health, academics and relationships with friends and family. In sum, it greatly affects their overall quality of life.

The current pandemic has created chaos and posed a whole new set of challenges in the lives of the students. From basic issues like connectivity to adapting to online learning methods and changed exam patterns – students have faced a tough time adjusting to the new normal. Add to that the uncertainties about jobs and higher education for those in the final year. Despite this, students are showing incredible grit and determination. Overcoming these challenges has shaped their character and made them more resilient. Patience, perseverance, problem solving, are just some of the abilities that they have gained, not to mention becoming tech-savvy.

At the same time, students are also experiencing reduced motivation towards studies, difficulty concentrating, pressure to learn independently, disruptions in their usual routine and lowered satisfaction with college experiences. Being cut-off from college and social life has their own implications too. For many, college was their comfort zone, where they could have new experiences, explore their identities, grow and evolve into the adults of tomorrow. They’ve been deprived of simple pleasures like hanging out with friends, going for movies, and being a part of college fests and events. All this has put a burden on their mental and emotional health.

Various researches and surveys undertaken in the past few months have revealed an increase in student mental health issues, particularly anxiety, due to the pandemic and academic disruptions, as well as the sudden drop in social interactions. Yet, many refuse to admit that something is wrong or avoid seeking help; mainly due to insufficient knowledge and lack of affordability & accessibility. Fear of negative reactions and teasing from peers and others discourages them further.

So what steps can we take?

  • As students, opening up to a friend, a family member or anyone you are close to can help ease your mind and feel relieved. Take a break from the daily hustle – unwind, spend time alone, stay away from the screens for a while, read a book. Engage in self-care activities – like taking a relaxing bath, exercise, or start a hobby. Lastly, don’t hesitate to consult a Psychotherapist/Counsellor; even if your problem seems trivial, it can be extremely beneficial and improve your overall quality of life.
  • Parents too can ensure their child’s health by appreciating their efforts and being supportive and encouraging.
  • On an institutional level, enabling access to support services like counsellors or peer support groups will be a key step in ensuring students’ wellbeing. Teachers and seniors too can play a part in helping the newer students adjust better, through some informal interactions with them. Keeping in mind the changing scenario, new educational practices also need to be adopted that focus on a holistic development of the students

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Ms. Shreya Shah

M.A. Clinical Psychology Counsellor & Professor Co-founder at Unico

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