This piece comes from Osaro Ewansiha of the Class of 2020 project. The subject matter is mental health, which has become a prevalent issue for many of us during this uncertain period. This is a very useful (and calming) read. Class of 2020 is a fantastic initiative and their team of volunteers are providing a service that will support young people who have been furloughed, made redundant or are simply struggling to find a job out of uni. You can get in touch with Osaro here: firstname.lastname@example.org. Make sure you check out their site when it goes live in early September. LW
It is August 10th, approximately 20 weeks since the UK Government announced a nationwide shutdown. A historic moment in human history; none of us could have anticipated the devastating repercussions for the UK economy, the student recruitment market and our topic of the day – mental health and wellbeing.
“The world was set on fire and we found ourselves dancing in the flames”
Mental health amongst young people is an ever-burning concern that we must address. A survey conducted by the UK mental health charity, YoungMinds, found that 83% of their 2,111 participants under the age of 25, reported an increase in mental health concerns since the start of shutdown.
Emma Thomas, the Chief executive of YoungMinds highlights that “[the pandemic is a] human tragedy that will continue to alter the lives of everyone in our society. The results of this survey show just how big an impact this has had, and will continue to have, on the mental health of young people.”
But this concern isn’t just UK based: mental health amongst young people is a duplicitous pandemic that has ravaged students across the globe. A study conducted in early 2019, by Swinburne University, Australia found that 1 in 3 young people under the age of 25 reported suffering with loneliness and isolation. In that same year, another study by Gallup Research, USA found that 45% of university students were treated for depression and anxiety in 2019 alone. It goes without saying, these numbers illustrate a crisis in the student population that goes beyond their ability to simply find a job.
Food for thought:
- How am I expected to start the job search and address my career when no one has begun the search to solve the mental health outbreak amongst myself and my peers? Does the later not implicate the former?
- How am I expected to begin the transition from education to employment, in a world on lockdown, with a mind that has shut down? Is there hope?
We’re stuck. But, remember, I, you, we are not alone…
It’s important to emphasise that it isn’t a ‘problem’ with you, but a wider systemic issue with the student mind in its educational cycle. Something isn’t right; students across the globe are suffering a commonality. And with no known cure, we continue to trail through the struggle as it chips away ever so slowly – until a bigger, larger, fearful pandemic comes along and shakes our life out of this temperamental balance.
But, before we continue, ask yourself this question:
“If the world is on fire and my mind a war zone, where is the solution to this chaos?”
The answer is not what we do, but how we do it. How do we salvage our wellbeing and keep learning, whatever that learning may be? Therefore, the question becomes: ‘How do we manage the solution to this chaos?’
In a previous article covering mental health amongst ethnic minority groups, I mentioned that the biggest issue with wellbeing remedies is that they require a lot of effort. They require us to make that conscious decision to change; sometimes, for someone suffering, that’s asking a lot, and it is never lazy to say so. I find that the simplest practises offer the greatest results. My advice: do small things that become ordained into your daily habits. And here are my top 3:
1/ Communication and Collaboration –
Communication is a fantastic approach, but it has sadly become a fluffy tactic that we are tired of hearing. So, let’s re-examine…
Research published in BMJ Journals has shown that focusing on others does induce feelings of happiness. However, it isn’t just about communicating with others, but how you choose to manage that communication; what are you talking about? How do you interact? What is the purpose of your interaction? These are all very important questions that shape the effectiveness of your communication and what you hope to achieve from it.
Interacting with others, helping them out with their practises and collaborating over hobbies are effective means of engagement. Offering your free time to help a friend with a project or collaborate on an activity has been proven to induce higher levels of well-being. You feel good knowing that your work has made someone else feel good.
2/ Press Play –
The twitter storm which emerged from the temporary crash of the Spotify app, in early July, speaks for itself! During a time when we have so much free time, music and podcasts give you comfort and provide company.
Therapy practitioner Nate Martinez has noted that: …music and sound have the ability to modify our psychology and biochemistry, influence our brainwaves and even synchronise and change physiology such as heart rate [and] breathing.
There are a bunch of cool podcasts and styles of music waiting to be explored! It is as simple as pressing play. My most recommended are those that cover topics you wouldn’t normally approach; interesting, unusual and comedic episodes that take your mind away from this chaos.
Note to self: probably not best to listen to a serious episode on struggles with COVID, when you yourself are struggling with COVID.
3/ Netflix and Chi… I mean, popcorn.
Comedy Specials (that are actually funny) are great ways to assist your mental health. Professor Deffenbacher, a specialist in cognitive behaviour theory, found that humour creates a cognitive intervention. It causes a cognitive restructuring of your circumstance to freshen the mind and produce feelings of hope and optimism.
Laughter is psychologically proven to induce feelings of positivity and comfort in dark times. Research from the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, USA found that laughing can instantly relieve stress, soothe tension and carry further long-term effects of a healthy and stronger immune system.
There are many other easy tactics to try and explore, but regardless, start off simple:
“Separate the smoke from the fire, so that you can identify and target the flames.”