Mental health is man’s state of mental well-being that gives room of opportunity for humans to cope with life’s many stresses, realize their abilities, able to learn and work well, and contribute to human and community development. It is a determinant of how people handles stress, inter-personal relationships and decision-making.
For many students in higher institutions of learning, this is quite a huge thing as it plays a major role in what they become during the course of their study and at the end of their learning journey, perhaps for some it could lead to a lifetime impact. They are in an environment where there is an opportunity for greater independence and freedom. Incidentally, they often do not remember that such freedom and independence comes with challenges (mild or severe), which could affect what they become in life.
The long-term effects of their new found life of independence is huge on society because they are the generation that would eventually take over the management of same society in the near future. So, if their mental health is not appropriately taken care of today, tomorrow is likely to turn out red. According to Sarah Ricahrdson, the head of student services at the University of Derby, ’good mental health is vital for students. She reiterates that happy and healthy students are successful students.’ This is a good reason why higher institutions of learning must care so much about the mental health of their students, to attain quality and productive learning.
The fact that the state of our mental health determines everything about our day-to-day living : our engagements, participations, conversations and involvements with other people, is a pointer to the need to ensure that mental health issues are a top priority for students in higher institutions of learning. It is like the unit of thoughts, feelings and decision making as humans, and since learning involves these, it is imperative that more should be done in order to make learning rewarding.
In most Nigeria’s higher institutions of learning, students are not really enjoying the good mental health capacity due to reasons such as the followings:
Inability to access the needed resources to maximize learning opportunities
Change of environment (from a more restricted and monitored home front to a totally fee space of independence)
Increasing lack or inadequate access to needed learning resources
Unrealistic and unhealthy expectations placed on them by parents
Weak institutional support and
Poor knowledge of mental health issues
These and many more reasons puts them at a higher risk of going through mental health challenges and crisis. The fact that the students are less likely to seek help because they do not know how to nor aware of the symptoms of mental health challenges makes it even difficult for them to be supported. While few who are willing to be supported are in institution where that has a weak or no mental health support system.
The following steps are healthy and supportive for students having mental health challenges:
Do not be hard on yourself, remember that challenges are not meant to defeat us, but to the defeated
Never let the thought of ‘I’m in trouble’ be a part of you, you can only be in trouble if you watch on and do nothing.
Take a bold step to seek help/inform someone/ take a walk regularly or participate in sporting activities that improves physical fitness
Trace the cause(s) of the issue by breaking it down into specific causes, to enable you deal with it from the roots
Eat balanced diet and do away with alcohol and drug abuse and misuse
Do not fear, we all go through it, so you are not alone. You can only be alone if you do not act fast and right.
Visit the hospital to see a Doctor if need be (it is very important)
The government can support higher institutions of learning to make issues of mental health easier to deal with by putting in place supportive policies that would ensure prevention, management and other supportive services for students in higher institutions. Higher institutions of learning should be supported to ensure the followings, to appropriately reduce the incidents of mental health issues among students:
Regular sensitization and awareness activities on mental health for students
Introduction of compulsory course on mental health for all students, so that they can have basic knowledge and understanding on its causes, prevention, management etc
Introduction of 24/7 telephony and if possible one-on-one support services on mental health issues
Establishment of a mental health support group with membership cutting across the institution community (students, academic and non-academic staff etc)
Collaboration with a tertiary health institution, non-governmental organization, medical association or mental health professionals association where available.
In conclusion, it is important to know that whatever become the mental health of today’s students in higher institutions of learning would go a long way to affect our collective tomorrow as a people.