What you need to know:
- The students are in a very volatile phase of their life, where the dynamics of positive and negative are extreme.
- Matriculating at college is a life-altering experience; an emotional rollercoaster.
Mental illness among students in tertiary institutions is increasingly becoming a big issue. According to Kenya Mental Health Policy 2015- 2030, one in four young adults in the country struggles with mental illness though many of them do not seek help.
Matriculating at college is a life-altering experience; an emotional rollercoaster. The students are in a very volatile phase of their life, where the dynamics of positive and negative are extreme. Most are moving away from home for the first time and learning how to build a new support network. And there is classwork, study and social time with peers.
For one finding their place in the world, professionally and socially, these conditions can compound daily stress to the point that living becomes unbearable and, to naively young minds, impossible. The landscape is fraught with anxiety, frustration, depression, addiction and suicidal thoughts.
Let’s raise awareness about the effect of mental ill-health on students at this transitory and often vulnerable stage of life. Prevalence of and access to cheap alcohol and narcotics on campus are a high-risk environment for those struggling internally.
With newfound freedom, students are attracted to substance abuse. Grappling with anxiety, depression and other mental disorders, they imbibe alcohol or drugs in a bid to erase their pain and quiet their worries. The ‘self-medication’ makes the symptoms go, briefly, but it’s all too easy to quickly develop tolerance, then dependency. Mental health problems and substance abuse often inter-connect.
To many, especially those inexperienced in mental health, students may look morally inept and melodramatic, but those are facades covering a myriad ugly underlying issues. There’s the disillusionment of youth, yes, but with mental illness, a little pain can be excruciating and flare up things — especially at the university, where every lecture, meal and interaction can seem like a hurdle.
University students are among the most at-risk demographics for mental illness. Delinquency, suicide, immorality and other illicit practices are on an all-time high amongst them. But to blame them is like blaming someone who was struck by lightning for getting in the way. Not a single student fails to kindle to the struggles of his campus life.
So why do many refuse to seek help? Why do they ignore the signs? Well, they just don’t know where to turn. We need to make help more accessible.
It takes 10 times as long to put oneself back together as it does to fall apart with a mental illness. There is more acceptance of mental illness and discussion of it than has, perhaps, ever been, which is a good start.
But the problem is growing in severity and we’re not doing enough to tame it. Let universities address students’ emotional and spiritual needs. In the words of Aristotle, educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.