Paying attention to the mental health of students is the need of the hour. According to a study published in the Asian Journal of Psychiatry, over 53% of Indian university students suffer from moderate to extremely severe depression. According to our own studies, 74% of Indian students suffer from high to severe stress.
The Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown haven’t been kind to our student population. They are amongst the worst hit emotionally — 58% of Indian college students experienced a significant increase in their stress levels and severe deterioration in their emotions of anger, anxiety, loneliness, hopelessness, and happiness.
Top 3 causes of mental health issues faced by students
When we dig into the top complaints we have received from Indian students in these times, we found the top 3 issues to be:
1. Relationship issues
The pandemic has tested many young relationships. Partners were unexpectedly separated from each other. For many, it led to breakups.
2. Low confidence and self-esteem
Many were left anxious and worried about the impact the pandemic would have on their career prospects and placements.
There was of course the ever-present anxiety of them or a loved one contracting Covid-19. Many fought feelings of loneliness and isolation brought on by lockdown and strict social distancing.
All these directly led to fall in their self-esteem and confidence
3. Loss of work-life balance
Many students found themselves either not focusing enough on their academic work or focusing so much that it seemed to consume other aspects of their lives.
How to protect the mental health of students and youth at three levels
It is pertinent that we must all come together as a country and as a community to really protect our youth, at 3 levels.
1. Individual level:
We need to empower our youth and help them become more resilient individuals. There are many ways to facilitate this.
For this, institutions must introduce stress management training, physical activity programmes, and e-courses for self-help, and of course, professional therapy support.
2. Community level:
These consist of communities like academic course batches, etc. academic institutes must make it mandatory for their respective communities including students to undergo training in psychological first aid and suicide gatekeeping.
The goal here is to build peer support and a caring community culture.
3. Organizational level:
Whether it be at the academic institutional level, or at the governmental level, we need to make sure that youth mental health is the agenda at the leadership level.
It’s our responsibility as a country and as a community to protect our youth, to be there for them in their toughest times. We need to empower our students to be resilient well-rounded adults.