Give attention to students’ mental health

Dr Yousuf Ali al Mulla –

For many youngsters, the difficult time they face is during their studies at university or colleges. This often affects their mental health.
Ironically, their untold problems and difficulties are neither brought to the fore nor are they bothered to be attended by the parents or their caretakers.
At university level, a student may face a great deal of pressure and challenges that pose different physical and emotional difficulties.
It is not only my personal observation but also, studies have revealed that mental health problems among university students are on the rise.
So the question now is that whether the universities or academic institutions concerned have given any attention to solve this issue.
I believe that many of us, have heard that students often claim to experience stress, anxiety, symptoms of depression, eating problems and other psychological issues, leading to serious negative impact on their academic performance.
There are several cases of the prevalence of worsening mental health among students studying in different faculties worldwide. Students with such problems very often end up in loneliness showing major depressive symptoms.
However, I should say that most students who have problems do not receive any therapeutic or counselling services. Some universities even give very little attention to their students, resulting in both short and long term consequences, including decreasing work capacity and poor academic performance.
Often the depression leads to addictions including drugs and alcohol.
What I would like to emphasise here is that all educational institutions including universities should introduce an effective counselling system for those students.
Over 800 universities worldwide have categorised the student mental health problems, including a sense of being dysfunctional, loss of confidence, lack of self-regulation and anxiety proneness.
It is noticed that the prevalence of mental health problems is more in first year students in the universities.
This happens as a result of their moving away from parents and other kith and kin. At this stage they also become independent and have to manage all activities on their own. So there is an urgent need that universities accord top priority and reinforce healthy behaviours in students. So while universities or any academic institute might offer advice on sleep, nutrition, physical activity, stress management and coping strategies, they should also help such students to act on this advice.
Academic institutes should design mental health treatment services, in collaboration with student families and not to leave the students suffer in silence as we witness nowadays, as one of the most dangerous aspects of depression and mental health concerns in general is suicide.
It is neither an exaggeration nor a claim that there is a mental health crisis today facing the college students, but I believe the overall picture now is clear. If so, the next question is what we should do about it.

Dr Yousuf Ali Almulla, MD, Ministry of Health. He is a medical innovator and educator. For any queries regarding the content of the column, he can be contacted at: