A Courageous Conversation discussion of the importance of mental health for students
Mental Health has been a popular topic for decades as psychologists and scientists emphasize the importance of maintaining it. In a 2019 youth risk behavior study conducted by CDC, researchers found more than 1 in 3 high school students had experienced persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness (CDC, 2019). That number was only based on high school students, so the actual number, including college and all K-12 students, can be expected to be much higher and the data would be predictably higher given the COVID-19 crisis.
The mental health of a student can indirectly impact that student’s learning and academic performance. Students suffering from depression or anxiety tend to have lower grades and low academic reliability, i.e., inconsistent management of workload and a poor ability to learn and achieve academically. It is therefore important not to undermine the effects that adverse mental health status can have on a student. The establishment of health services and wellness workshops in schools and around the campus has been a popular method for addressing this problem in recent years.
Suggested ways in which students can maintain a positive state of Mental Health
Take care of your body
Getting enough rest, staying hydrated, working out or stretching are some things you can do to maintain a fit and healthy body. Eating healthy, exercising, and getting enough sleep are all core lifestyle habits to adopt for a positive mindset.
Learn how to cope with Stress
Being a student will one way or another put some stress in your life. However, it is important to learn how to cope and reduce your stress regularly to free yourself from toxins. Hanging out with friends, doing yoga, taking a walk, and establishing some “me-time” can help with that.
Surround yourself with positivity
The best way to ensure that you have a healthy mind is to surround yourself with people who also have a positive mindset. Being around friends or family that can support and encourage you throughout your life is crucial. It is also important to be resilient and opt for an environment where you can thrive with positivity around.
To maintain a sound and healthy mind, it is essential to prioritize your mental health. Many students feel that mental health is not as important as physical health. The stigma around mental health not being significant is not a new phenomenon. Unfortunately, this ideology is still highly prevalent in teenagers’ minds. Quite the contrary! Prioritizing mental health is just as important as prioritizing physical health.
The SHoT Study
In a 2014, 2,430 full-time college students under the age of 35 were invited to participate in a Norwegian study (Grøtan, Sund, & Bjerkeset, 2019). A total of 749 students participated in the survey to determine the effect that mental health had on their studies during the year.
The study uncovered the effect of the mental health problems on the students’ midterm and final exams. Female students reported severe symptoms of mental health problems that double the frequency of male students: 20.2% versus 9.4% respectively. In total, 13.9% reported low academic self-efficacy and 6.1% reported delayed study progress. Furthermore, over 82.4% reported symptoms of mental health problems that were few or moderate in degree, while almost 16.8% reported severe mental health symptoms in the past 2 weeks. These results (see Table 1 below) show a strong correlation between low mental health and low academic self-efficacy as well as delayed study progress stands out in the mental health research. The study shows the negative impact that a precarious mental health status can have on students if their mental health and wellness needs are not addressed.
Table 1. Outcomes & Predictors
A low academic self-efficacy and delayed study progress are just some of the negative mental health outcomes reported in the research. The research also reported high levels of anxiety and depression in students, with the risk of having a low academic self-efficacy found to be more than four times higher among those with severe mental health challenges than among those who reported fewer symptoms.
The SHoT Study concluded that the risk of experiencing low academic self-efficacy was more than four times higher [OR 4.55 (95% CI 2.79–7.42)] among those who reported their symptoms compared to ones among those who reported few and moderate symptoms (Table 2).
Table 2. Associations between predictors and academics
Mental Health has rarely been prioritized in the past. However, the severe effects of having a negative mental health status have caused significant issues in students, including bouts of depression, anxiety, stress, etc. Being able to take care of your mind and body is vital. Although it is okay to stress, it is also essential to relieve that stress and focus on the positive aspects of life. For students and people who suffer from such issues, it is important to be resilient and work intentionally towards building better habits. One of the very best things you can do for your mental health and wellness is to prioritize yourself.
If you are a student in need of any mental health-related support, text "NAMI" to 741741 for confidential, free counseling anytime.
Call the NAMI HelpLine at 800-950-6264
Be sure to check out these organizations whose primary objectives are to keep mental health awareness on the national consciousness:
Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2021, June 8). Mental health. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/mental-health/index.htm
Digital Arts from IDG. (n.d.). https://www.digitalartsonline.co.uk
Grøtan, K., Sund, E. R., & Bjerkeset, O. (2019). Mental health, academic self-efficacy and study progress among college students – The SHoT study, Norway. Frontiers in Psychology, 10. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00045
Mental health promotion. (n.d.). Minnesota Department of Health. https://www.health.state.mn.us/communities/mentalhealth/
Written by Krupa Rami & Shivam Rami (UMBC Shriver Interns, 2022)
Courageous Conversation series is The Aafiyah Project's discussion forum for sharing insights on mental health and wellness through discussion series, webinars, blog posts, social media posts etc.