“Ovation” in Greek history refers to the loud greeting and applause that welcomes
soldiers returning from battle. As young people return to the class room this autumn,
they should be considered warriors who survived the emotional strain due to the Covid
pandemic. Though they have to work hard to get into a routine of studying and learning,
they all deserve a standing ovation for courage in trying to assemble again for classes
and social get-togethers and just be - young people with hopes and aspirations - once
again. There is data that supports the growing epidemic of mental illness in young
adults. Rather than feeling fear of missing out, that somehow they have not achieved
the anticipated goals; young people should be lauded for surviving such a terrible time
and emerging from the storm with renewed spirit and courage to pursue their dreams.
Almost 10 years ago the Royal Society for Public Health presented data in “Status of
Mind” that showed - up to 91% of young people aged 16 to 24 years old use the Internet
for social networking (RSPH 2017) . However, social media use is associated with high rates of depression, anxiety, and poor sleep. Social media use is more addictive than cigarettes
or alcohol. In addition, cyber bullying is a growing problem. On the other hand, some
who use social media report that they feel supported by the contacts that they make on
the Internet. Social media use can provide access to other people’s experiences of
mental health and expert health information. In a recent Caritas Nigeria media
production about human trafficking, victims were portrayed as young women who were
lured with promises from men who they met online. Some of them escaped by using a
cell phone to text ”SOS” to a trusted family member, who was then able to report to
appropriate authorities. Technological advances offer opportunities as well as threats.
Young people should develop knowledge and skills about navigating the Internet to
support rather than damage their mental health.
Many young people going to college this fall may be returning students who have been
to the campus and know their way around. However, others are new to college life,
perhaps living in rented accommodation, far away from the familiarity of their high
school, family and friends. An individual student may feel anxious about the new
responsibilities, excited about being on an adventure, and unaware that other students
may be feeling the same way. It’s important for students to know where they can get
support for all aspects of their life in college, for educational activities as well as
emotional difficulties. There are many transitions in life and the best preparation is to
gather information about what to expect, and where possible to have mentors who are
knowledgeable about college life. Young people who set realistic expectations about
what they will do in college, especially during the first few months of settling in, may feel less overwhelmed.
Change is a fact of life and attending college is going to make a person face challenges.
Returning students know about scheduling classes, completing assignments, preparing
for examinations, and may have a game plan or routine for getting through the day and
juggling tasks. However, drop-out rates of first year students have risen and there has
been increasing demand for mental health support in UK universities; according to Dr
Lesley French at the Anna Freud Centre (French, 2022).
From 2013 to 2021, the number of young people reporting that they feel depressed has
increased 135%, in the US. Harvard Business Publishing highlighted what students are
saying about their mental health issues and concludes with recommendations for
teachers to create safe places where students feel heard and supported (HBP, 2022a) . In a follow up article, the authors reflect that lack of motivation in students can be due to trauma,
exhaustion, feelings of hopelessness as well as how the students are taught (HBP, 2022b). Time and time again online reviews about specific classes and teachers fall on deaf ears. Due to
the power imbalance, students frequently cannot comment negatively about a professor
who does not teach adequately and still scores them poorly-making the student seem
like a failure whereas it is the professor who was derelict in duty of making the material
accessible and understood.
When young people feel as if they are not achieving, they are not where they expected
to be, they may have fear of missing out. As a matter of fact, acknowledging the risks,
spelling out the challenges, facing that fear, taking steps to achieving our goals, after a
hiatus due to pandemic, makes every young person worthy of a medal. I would
encourage every young person returning to college to choose instead to “focus on my
ovation” and press on, full of hope that they can make the necessary adjustments to
cope with the challenge and will grow in resilience. Every stop sign, every obstacle,
every perceived setback, will be an opportunity to change how we do things so as to
achieve an improved outcome.
French, L. (Aug 19, 2022). Managing students' wellbeing during the transition to uniiversity. Retrieved from https://www.fenews.co.uk/exclusive/managing-students-wellbeing-during-the-transition-to-university/
Harvard Business Publishing. (Jul 13, 2022a). Students get real about mental health. Retrieved from https://hbsp.harvard.edu/inspiring-minds/students-get-real-about-mental-health-and-what-they-need-from-educators
Harvard Business Publishing. (Jul 13, 2022b). Why your students are disengaged. Retrieved from hbsp.harvard.edu/inspiring-minds/why-your-students-are-disengaged/?icid=top_nav
Royal Society for Public Health. (May, 2017). #StatusofMind. Retrieved from https://www.rsph.org.uk/our-work/campaigns/status-of-mind.html