Intervention around young people’s mental health awareness and issues during difficult times such as the Covid-19 pandemic is crucial says Mary Mensah
The World Health Organisation defines mental health as a “state of well-being, a realisation of self-abilities by those affected in coping with the stressors that they encounter in life and is able to effectively contribute to his or her community”.
Amid the Covid-19 pandemic mental health has become a huge concern for communities across the world. Adapting to changes and facing new challenges has been very hard. While some have displayed excellent resilience in bouncing back and making something positive out of something negative, it has not been an easy journey.
As we continue to cope with new changes in terms of working online, being isolated at home, trying to do our best to maintain our own health, it has become important to give mental health space for conversation and keep it as a priority both personally and professionally.
Prioritising Mental Health.
Evidence suggests that the workplace puts a lot of burden on the mental health of people particularly when it comes to working in a high demanding or unfamiliar environment.
A report by the World Health Organisation on the promotion of mental health suggested that policies and interventions can be effective towards the increase of awareness towards mental health if the issue is targeted and is made everybody’s business such as communities, health professionals, government, families, just to name a few. This is because the actions of these specific stakeholders can have a big impact not only on the promotion but on building an economy where mental health prevention can be seen as an important factor for development.
What causes mental illness or mental health challenges?
Mental illness can stem from different factors, one cause being genetics. This occurs when the disorder is transferred to you by one other family member who may be affected by it. The other factor is environmental exposure such as stressful situations. The use of drugs or alcohol by a parent is also another factor, especially during pregnancy.
Other factors include the chemicals in our brain that are called neurotransmitters which occur naturally. The role of neurotransmitters is to transfer messages (signals) throughout parts of our body and brain. When there is an imbalance between these signals, it causes us to function differently and puts us at risk of developing depression and anxiety.
Signs and Symptoms.
Unhappiness – lack of enjoyment of life
Difficulties with forming relationships
Social isolation – isolating ourselves from others
Self-harm including causing harm to others
Suicidal thoughts and tendencies
Weaken immune system – more prone to infections
Heart disease and other health related conditions
Ways to maintain a healthy headspace.
Resilience is the ability to bounce back from difficult situations. It is important to build upon your resilience to best handle situations that you feel are difficult. It is also important to develop self-awareness which requires focusing on yourself, putting yourself first and analysing your strengths and weaknesses before prioritising the needs of others.
Achieving small things
Try to achieve small things, it does not matter whether it is simply getting yourself out of bed and going to find something to eat. You should be proud of your small achievements. Doing so will increase your energy, boost your confidence, improve your motivation, and provide you with a sense of purpose and fulfilment.
When we build healthy relationships, it benefits our own mental health especially when our time is spent with those most important to us. It is understandable that when facing difficulties in our lives, building relationships can be a terrifying experience. However, being able to take those first steps towards trying to create healthy relationships will alleviate this fear and make you stronger.
COVID-19 and mental health awareness.
The Covid-19 pandemic has impacted the mental health of not only young people but also others with pre-existing mental health issues. These impacts were first seen in the year 2020 with the first virus outbreak. Some of the reasons for this was due to the enforcement of lockdowns, self-isolation, loss of employment and having to move to different locations for work and/or school.
Data from the AIHW found that psychological distress had worsened for young people aged 18-24 within the same year. It was suggested that this was the result of not having access to mental health services which was disrupted because of the pandemic. Decrease in employment was also a major factor for young people which saw over 329,000 young people losing their jobs. Unemployment for this cohort had become a high-risk factor for those suffering from a mental illness.
Intervention and support for the mental health of young people during difficult times such as the covid pandemic is crucial and should be made the main priority.
Mary is studying Social Work at the University of Tasmania. She hopes that her article resonates with someone and teaches them the importance of mental health and taking care of our own wellbeing. She wants those reading to feel that they are not alone with whatever circumstances they are encountering and that it will surely pass. She says, “Your current ill health should not define you or, should it limit your capabilities as a human being.”