On World Mental Health Day, observed on October 10, various international organizations gave students tips on how to assess their mental health. Here are some of their suggestions to help students maintain their mental health in the face of stress.
Studies have shown that mental health problems such as anxiety and depression are as common among Arab youth as their peers in Western countries, and sometimes more so. Armed conflict and economic turmoil in some countries are putting additional strain on the mental health of young people, and the isolation and disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic have taken their toll everywhere.
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Many Arab universities have programs to support their students’ mental health, although some have difficulty finding trained specialists for their staff. At universities that have mental health facilities, students with mental health problems should not be afraid to seek their help.
When counseling services aren’t available, experts advise that just talking openly and honestly with someone close to you will greatly improve your mental well-being. So be sure to share what you’re going through with those who care about you, no matter how you communicate.
What is mental health?
The World Health Organization (WHO) website defines mental health as a state of mental well-being that enables people to cope with life’s challenges, recognize their abilities, learn and work well, and contribute to their communities .
“It can be helpful to talk to someone you trust, whether it’s a friend, family member or colleague. You might feel better when you can be open about what you’re going through with someone who cares about you.”
World Health Organization
MentalHealth.gov, a government website in the United States, says that mental health is everything that encompasses our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It influences our thinking, feeling and acting. It also helps determine how we deal with stress, interact with others, and make decisions.
Mental health risks
Mental health risks can be found in more than one cause. The Western Australian Government Mental Health Committee website suggests the following risk factors:
- genetic predisposition
- homelessness and unemployment
- alcohol and other drug use
- Discrimination and racial injustice
- Family conflict or family disorganization
- Stressful life events
The same site asserts that similar events can have different effects on individuals based on what they were experiencing at the time and how they are able to cope with and learn from life events. That is, if several people are at risk, it does not necessarily mean that all of them will have mental health problems, and if some have problems, they will not appear in the same form or to the same extent.
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Organic diseases can often be easily recognized by pain or visible symptoms. Mental disorders are different. However, there are some indicators that could point to a mental health threat. According to MentalHealth.gov, early warning signs include:
- Eating or sleeping too much or too little
- Withdrawing from people and usual activities
- Having little or no energy
- Feel numb or as if nothing matters
- have inexplicable pain
- Feeling helpless or hopeless
- Smoking, drinking, or taking drugs more than usual
- Feeling unusually confused, forgetful, nervous, angry, upset, worried, or anxious
- Yelling or arguing with family and friends
- Experiencing severe mood swings that cause problems in relationships
- If you have persistent thoughts and memories, don’t get out of your head
- hearing voices or believing things that are not true
- Remember to harm yourself or others
- Inability to do daily tasks such as looking after your children or getting to work or school
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States has many years of experience in the field of public health protection and believes that mental illness can lead to significant impairments in physical health. For example, long-term depression can be linked to health problems such as diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.
maintaining mental health
The World Health Organization has put together six tips for managing stress.
Talk to someone you trust. It can be helpful to talk to someone you trust, whether it’s a friend, family member, or colleague. You may feel better when you can be open about what you’re going through with someone who cares about you. If you live in an area that restricts in-person interactions, you can still stay connected with loved ones through a video call, a phone call, or a messaging app.
“If you feel you cannot handle the stress you are experiencing, seek professional help. Call your local mental health service, or consult your counselor or doctor. Remember that you are not alone and there are things you can do to support your emotional well-being.” – World Health Organization
Take care of your physical health. Taking care of your physical health will help improve your mental health and well-being. Be active for at least 30 minutes a day, whether it’s running, walking, yoga, dancing, biking, or even gardening. Eat a balanced and healthy diet. Make sure you get enough sleep.
Do activities that you enjoy. Try to continue doing activities that you find worthwhile and enjoyable, such as cooking for yourself or your loved ones, playing with your pet, going for a walk in the park, reading a book, or watching a movie or TV series. A regular routine of activities that make you happy will help you maintain good mental health.
Stay away from pollutants. Don’t use harmful substances like drugs, kava, alcohol or tobacco to deal with your feelings. While these seem to make you feel better in the short term, they can make you feel worse in the long term. These substances are also dangerous and may put you and those around you at risk of illness or injury.
Focus on the world around you. Effective communication with the world around you helps clear your mind of negative thoughts. In the same way, you will find that appreciating the details of the surroundings has a good effect. You can do that by asking yourself: What are the first five things I see in front of me? What are the first four words I’m likely to hear? How do I describe the nature of the ground beneath my feet?
Seek professional help. If you feel like you can’t cope with the stress you are experiencing, seek professional help. Call your local mental health service, or consult your counselor or doctor. Remember that you are not alone and there are things you can do to support your emotional well-being.
Read more about mental health issues affecting Arab youth in Mental healthan archive of Al-Fanar Media’s coverage of the topic.
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