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Health of students in the post-pandemic era
13 Jan 2022
Health of students in the post-pandemic era image

Nowadays, there are numerous blog articles and Instagram posts that we come across which are related to mental health. There was a time when even mentioning the word ‘Mental Health’ was taboo.

People with depression and other issues were met with responses like “toughen up”, “It’s just a phase”, “You’ll get used to it” etc. which not only does not help the person but causes him to spiral into further depression and feelings of hopelessness.

The situation is much better today. Tremendous forward strides have been taken in raising awareness regarding mental health, but oftentimes these are not complemented by implementing things in practice.

Even though It is an issue that affects people of all demographics, but it is among students that it seems to be more pronounced. Within the category of students, adolescent and college students are the ones who endure the most stress and have a  heavy workload which understandably leads to depression and poor mental health. 

Things have taken a turn for the worse since the pandemic started and lockdowns were enforced. Studies show that even after the lifting of lockdown restrictions and reopening of schools and colleges, students are still not in pre-pandemic levels of mental health.

What is mental health?

Mental health refers to the cognitive, emotional, and psychological well-being of an individual. It depends on several factors. It affects how we think, feel and act. Therefore, the mental health of a person plays a major role in determining their overall well-being.

Poor mental health can cause depression which increases the risk of many long-lasting health conditions like diabetes, stroke, and heart diseases. Although many people may not admit it openly, mental health issues are fairly common.

According to many studies, around 50 percent of people will be diagnosed with some kind of mental illness during their lifetime. Therefore, mental health is as important to the overall health of an individual as physical health. Our country needs to do much more to ensure the mental well-being of its citizens.

What causes poor mental health?

It is difficult to determine the exact cause of poor mental health. It can be due to several factors. These are some of the reasons for mental health issues:

  • Early childhood trauma or child abuse
  • The feeling of loneliness and isolation
  • Ostracized from the peer group
  • Biological factors
  • Excessive use of alcohol and drugs
  • Stress due to workload or personal issues

It is crucial to identify these causes and diagnose mental diseases as early as possible.

Symptoms of depression and other mental health issues

Early identification and diagnosis of depression can go a long way to ensure the mental well-being of the individual. The symptoms can be broadly classified into three categories:

  • Physical factors: changes in sleeping patterns; either too much sleep or lack of sleep. Lack of appetite is also a common symptom of depression
  • Emotional: Sadness, the feeling of an existential crisis, the sensation of being overwhelmed by the task at hand or the things going on around him.
  • Thinking patterns: viewing everything in a negative light, the person finds it difficult to complete the tasks assigned to him, etc.

The above-mentioned behavioral patterns may not necessarily mean that a person has mental health issues. But if a person shows such behaviors regularly for an extended period, it is important to get help from experts.

Mental health of students

The demographics that are most affected by depression and other mental health issues are students. This is due to many factors in a student’s academic and personal life that are conducive to high levels of stress, low self-esteem, etc.

The huge workload of students, pressure from parents and teachers, and institutions to perform better, fear of underperforming, all contribute to increasing the student’s stress levels. This causes the student to slip into depression.

Moreover, the teenage and adolescent years are a time when the body and mind go through significant changes. One starts to experience new feelings, develops intimate relationships, and generally starts to acquire knowledge.

In young minds, this can sometimes lead to a feeling of hopelessness. Stress due to academic commitments adds to this. They can become depressed and reclusive.

COVID-19 and its mental health effects on students

Life of students took a dramatic turn due to the pandemic. Lockdown restrictions caused the students to attend the classes virtually. Online classes denied the students many opportunities and experiences which they could enjoy before the pandemic.

Lack of social interactions and close personal relationships affected their emotional well-being. According to various studies, more than half of the student population experienced severe mental health issues during the pandemic. The pandemic exacerbated the conditions of students who were already vulnerable.

Friendships, Relationships, a feeling of belonging to a certain group, all are very important in the life of a student. Due to lockdown restrictions, many students were unable to maintain their social connections.

They missed hanging out with their friends, going out to eat, playing sports. Social media interactions proved to be insufficient. For students in relationships, the pandemic hit especially hard. Many of the relationships ended in breakups and emotionally drained the students.

College students were worried about their future and job prospects. Many companies withdrew from campus placements and retracted their offers.

The rising unemployment rate and the dwindling economy in India added to their trauma Issues like global warming, climate change creates a sense of helplessness amongst young people. Also, the Feeling that they may not be able to go to their college again left them devastated.

Students often try to brush off stress-related issues to fit into their peer group. Therefore, it is important to properly identify the symptoms and seek appropriate medical advice.

They may get anxiety, develop eating disorders, and have a sense of hopelessness due to poor mental health. When these problems reach extreme levels, students can develop suicidal thoughts.

How to improve the mental health of students?

Students are still suffering from severe mental health issues. Although the situation has slightly improved since schools and colleges reopened, it is still not at pre-pandemic levels. Various studies show this.

Immediate measures are necessary to bring about a positive change. Schools and colleges need to set up proper systems to deal with the mental health of students. Better communication between students and teachers, parents are vital to ensure the mental well-being of the former.

How can we improve our well being?

At the moment, psychological advice and assistance to students are almost non-existent. This needs to improve. All educational institutions must have a department that is concerned with the mental health of students. Professors and parents should not burden students with heavy unnecessary workloads. The pressure put on students by parents to perform in fields in which they have no interest should be discouraged.

Another important factor to maintaining sound mental health is ensuring that the individual takes good care of his or her mind. Students should be encouraged to take a break sometimes, ease off a bit.

They should be able to find joy in picking up a book and getting lost in it. They should be able to find time to spend time with their family once in a while. And they also find time to maintain fitness.  Doing Yoga, working out in the gym or online under programs such as FFounders, going for a morning walk, etc. all these activities help to greatly reduce a person’s stress level.

Maintaining proper mental health is just as important as having a healthy body. It’s a welcome change that many people are now focusing on their mental well-being as well. In a country like India where a large portion of the population is below the age of 30, many of whom are students, it is pertinent to improve the overall health of its most productive citizens.

-Arshak Rehiman

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