Student Mental Health Crisis
03. January 2019 at 13:22
Canadian schools and universities are facing mental health crisis. All mental health organisations are focussed on complex solutions to this burning issue. While doing so, the simpler solutions are being overlooked. One such easier approach which promotes mental health is physical activity and promotion of the awareness of physical activity mental health connection is the goal of Active Mental Health Initiative, a Student led National Organization.In a society where we are surrounded by confusing, complex and convoluted remedies for even the most minor mental health concerns, it can be hard to remember the benefits that can be derived from the simpler aspects of life.
Ontario colleges and universities are currently facing a student mental health crisis that impacts the lives and academic performance of the students. The causes leading to this crisis are multifactorial, including the challenges of transitioning from high school to university, adaptation to a new social environment, financial difficulties, stress of academics and decreased support of family. The positive aspect is that universities are addressing the challenges of student mental health by laying down wellness strategies and opening student wellness centres, specifically catered towards mental health issues. Many National and International mental health organizations are also striving hard to promote mental health.
Through these measures, mental health is no doubt getting the attention it deserves. However, these institutions are still overlooking the benefits derived from simpler strategies which have been strongly correlated with improving student mental health, such as physical activity. Research has shown that physical activity may play an important role in the management of mild-to-moderate mental health concerns, especially depression and anxiety. Despite this growing interest in the role of physical activity, national surveys show that only 10% of Canadian children and 20% of Canadian adults meet the Canadian physical activity guidelines. The low levels of physical activity among the general population, coupled with its potential positive impact on mental health, demand the exploration of barriers to physical activity and effective ways to cope these barriers. Very few mental health organizations worldwide are working towards promoting the connection between physical activity and mental health.
One such organization is the Active Mental Health Initiative (AMHI), a Student led National organization, which was established in 2016 and it addresses the mental health crisis by encouraging the development of novel coping skills through group-based physical activity events It raises awareness of how powerful and beneficial physical activity, a seemingly simple element of our daily lives, is for our mental health. With thirty executive members from different Canadian cities, the organization hosts fundraisers for mental health initiatives and organizes university symposiums in collaboration with the student mental health clubs. These symposiums address the issue of mental health stigma and obstacles to seeking formal help as well as highlight the importance of physical activity in promoting mental health. Experts and students engage in fruitful discussions and a stimulating exchange of ideas on the topic of changing the perspective of students on mental health. These activities inspire the students to be the stakeholders of their own mental health.
In addition to raising awareness of mental health-physical activity connection, these symposiums also host competitions in which high school and university students are asked to propose an idea of physical fitness app which focuses on positive mental health, such as emotion of happiness after activity. This competition provides the students with an opportunity to be creative and fosters a learning environment for them.
The organization also runs a weekly blog and a Youtube Community Channel under the supervision of a psychiatrist to make community videos on the role of physical activity in treating psychiatric diseases. In addition, through starting AMHI clubs and peer mentorship clubs in schools, AMHI is working towards integrating the concept of physical activity and mental health at an early age. Finally, the condition has changed. The students are becoming stakeholders in devising their mental health plans and the schools are incorporating AMHI clubs structured on physical activity as part of mental health promotion plans.