August 26

Ways Students Positive Mental Health At University

Ways Students Positive Mental Health At University

For many students, heading off to university means moving away from home and to a new place, facing the prospect of making new friends or adjusting to larger class sizes. For some it will also mean readapting to in-person learning.

Amid the normal life transitions from teenage years into adulthood, the pandemic introduced new stressors and interruptions, instigating changes to most people’s daily lives and routines. Students may have experienced additional challenges such as reduced social contact with friends and supports.

These factors, individually or collectively, can negatively impact learning and lead to worsening mental health. Our research shows that during the pandemic, one in three university students reported elevated rates of anxiety and depression. This means that a large portion of students experienced feelings of sadness, hopelessness and/or excessive worry.

The transition to a new school year will be an important time to focus on strategies for fostering positive mental health and well-being in addition to recognizing signs that help may be needed.

Below, we provide five strategies to help set students up for success as they embark on a new academic year.

Show Yourself Empathy And Compassion Students

If you found yourself feeling unmotivated and stressed during the pandemic, you are not alone. Many students struggled with mental health concerns prior to, and during, the pandemic.

During tough times, being understanding, empathetic and practising self-compassion can improve your mental health.

This means approaching upsetting emotions without judgment, rather than ignoring them, and showing yourself care instead of criticism. These practices can improve your mood and help you cope.

Similarly, when friends and loved ones need support, there are ways to show them empathy and compassion. This might involve listening to them without judgement and validating their feelings.

Re-Connect Or Get Connected

Research shows that we feel better when we feel supported. If you feel like you are struggling with your mental health, re-connect with a trusted friend, family member or peer. Setting yourself up for positive well-being this school year might also involve making new connections through participation in on- or off-campus clubs or groups.

Recognize When You’re Struggling Students

Transitions can be challenging and it is a good idea to ask for help when you need it. This could be to a friend, a family member or an academic advisor. Before reaching out to someone we trust, we first must recognize when we are struggling.

It is important to take stock of how we are feeling and notice when we feel different from our usual selves. Sometimes, short-lived changes occur, including having more or less energy than usual, sleeping more or less than usual, losing interest in things we used to enjoy and shifts in mood, like feeling more sad, angry, irritable or worried.

When these changes are sustained over weeks or months, it’s a good indication that you should reach out for help.

Access Available Mental Health Services Students

The age at which students attend university coincides with an increase in experiencing mental health challenges. People are only able to deal with so many stressors on their own, and many students are having to face more stress and uncertainty during this pandemic.

When our lives and routines feel unpredictable and uncontrollable, our mental health often suffers. If you notice that you aren’t feeling like yourself, access mental health resources available on campus. These can usually be found on university websites or through campus wellness centres.

Practice Self-Care And Do Things You Enjoy

Post-secondary education can be a demanding experience. To cope with stress, prevent burnout and improve your mood, try incorporating self-care practices and leisure activities into your routine. This may involve improving sleep hygiene, trying to eat healthy meals, putting aside time to read a good book or socializing with friends.

Taking even short breaks from school responsibilities and making time for yourself can contribute to your well-being. Need some more suggestions? Here is a list of self-care tips.

It is important to set ourselves up for success by taking steps to foster well-being, both in and beyond a pandemic. This includes taking time to reach out to our support networks, show care and compassion to ourselves and to others and reaching out to professional mental health resources when in need.

August 26

Mental Distress Much Worse For People Disabilities

Mental Distress Much Worse For People Disabilities

It’s no secret COVID is having a drastic impact on people’s wellbeing. And has worse an already a rising trend in mental health problems. The Australian Institute for Health and Welfare’s latest figures. Indicate some of our most vulnerable are struggling even more than most.

People with disabilities are experiencing very high rates of mental health difficulties and psychological distress. Yet health professionals often don’t feel equipped to treat people who are experiencing both disabilities and mental health difficulties.

About one in six Australians have a disability, equating to around 4.4 million people. The latest figures show two-thirds of people with a disability report low to moderate levels of psychological distress. While around a third report high or very high levels of psychological distress.

This compares to 92% of people without disability who report low to moderate psychological distress. And 8% who report high or very high distress. Almost a quarter of adults living with a disability report their mental health has worsened during the pandemic period.

Why The Difference?

Research tells us there’s a strong link between physical health and mental health. Some health behaviors are likely to have a detrimental effect on wellbeing, such as poor diet and inactivity.

In general, people with a disability are more likely to engage in risky health behaviors than people without a disability. This includes not eating enough fruit and vegetables per day (47% compared to 41%). Being overweight or obese according to body mass index (72% compared to 55%). And not doing enough physical activity for their age (72% compared to 52%).

Not only do people with disabilities have higher rates of mental health difficulties and health risk behaviors. They also face significant barriers when it comes to accessing effective and timely healthcare. These barriers include lengthy wait times for healthcare, inaccessibility of buildings, costs and experiences of discrimination, including by health professionals.

Be Disable Or Have Mental Health Problems

Working across the mental health and disability sectors, it is not uncommon to hear of people falling between the cracks of services. Someone may present to a disability-specific health service, and be turned away due to a co occurring mental health difficulty. They might then present to a mental health service and be turned away due to having a disability.

A range of factors contribute to this issue. Services are often fund in a way that requires them to have certain criteria for the clients who can be seen. This unfortunately means those who do not meet the criteria are turn away.

Health and mental health practitioners agree people with disabilities have the right to receive good mental heath care and access to services. But clinicians such as psychologists and counsellors report low confidence when working with people with disabilities, and insufficient training in how to best help them.

Barriers Can Cause Discrimination Worse

For a long time, people with certain disabilities such as intellectual disabilities were exclude from many mental health treatments. It was assume that due to difficulties with learning and processing information, they did not have the capacity to engage in therapy.

Only in the past decade has this started to shift, with emerging mental health treatment programs developed specifically for people with disabilities.

A lack of training can also result in a form of discrimination called diagnostic overshadowing. This is when a health practitioner attributes a person’s symptoms to an already existing disability or mental illness, rather than fully exploring the symptoms and considering alternate diagnoses.

Often, once a patient has a confirmed diagnosis, there is a tendency to attribute all new behaviors or symptoms to that diagnosis. As a result, diagnoses may be inaccurate or get miss. And treatment might not be adequate or effective.

Investment And Training Is Need Worse

If we are to improve the mental health and wellbeing of people living with a disability, greater investment is need. Doctors and practitioners require specialized training to work with clients with both disabilities and mental illness.

We also need greater collaboration between health, disability and mental health professionals, and increased communication so services work together rather than in isolation. We can look to the University of New South Wales Department of Developmental Disability Neuropsychiatry, University of Technology Sydney’s Graduate School of Health and West mead Children’s Hospital for examples of mental health and disability needs being integrate. Other services should follow this path.

As always, prevention and early intervention is key worse. While it is important we can effectively treat people who require help, it is also important for us to curb the rising trend of mental illness.

August 26

Elite Sport Coaches Suffered Mental Ill-Health

Elite Sport Coaches Suffered Mental Ill-Health

With the recent sudden death of former rugby league coach and player Paul Green, conversations about the mental health of elite coaching staff are paramount.

Our research in 2020, published in July this year, found more than 40% of coaches from Olympic sports we surveyed reported mental health symptoms at a level that would warrant professional treatment. But fewer than 6% reported seeking treatment at the time.

Despite facing immense pressure in their daily roles, the mental health needs of elite coaches have been largely neglected in public conversation.

Athletes Increasingly Discussing Mental Health

In recent years, we have seen many high-profile athletes across several sports talk openly about their mental health struggles. They include Naomi Osaka, Nick Kyrgios, Simone Biles, Michael Phelps, Bailey Smith and Majak Daw.

UFC fighter Paddy Pimblett recently challenged mental health stigma and promoted seeking help in a post-fight interview.

When elite athletes openly discuss mental ill-health, this is often publicly celebrate. This aligns with changing cultural attitudes, moving away from rigid stoicism and towards recognizing mental ill-health as a reality rather than a rarity.

Coaches Largely Neglected

But it’s rarer to see people talking about mental ill-health in elite coaches. Very few coaches have publicly discussed their experiences, with a small number of notable exceptions in the AFL. Former St Kilda player and Richmond coach Danny Frawley openly discussed experiencing depression and anxiety before his death in September 2019.

Former Essendon player and coach James Hird also described experiencing suicidal thoughts, contacting Beyond Blue for crisis support, and receiving inpatient treatment for depression.

However, public recognition of the pressures and mental health challenges experienced by elite coaches remains poor

Elite coaches experience immense pressure in their daily roles. They are subject to many of the same challenges as the elite athletes they coach. These include performance pressure, public scrutiny, online harassment, role insecurity, extended periods travelling for sport and missing significant life events as a result.

Coaches are also task with vast levels of responsibility for club and sporting success. Their role requires them to act as the face of club decisions, performance and injuries and they’re often expose to blistering public opinion and scrutiny about such matters.

In 2021, tennis player Naomi Osaka comment on the toll of post-match interviews but no such discussions have been apply to coaches.

Our Mental Research

In 2020, the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) commissioned a survey of the mental health and wellbeing of coaches and support staff across Australian Olympic-level sports (the 2020 Mental Health Audit). Our team at youth mental health organization Oxygen and the University of Melbourne conducted this study, which represents one of the largest surveys of coach and support staff mental health and wellbeing.

We surveyed 78 coaches and 174 support staff from Australia’s elite Olympic sport system. The survey assessed rates of health symptoms, psychological distress, sleep disturbance and alcohol use.

We found elite coaches reported mental health symptoms at a similar level to elite athletes.

Signs of mental health stigma were also apparent. For example, 30% thought mental health problems would reflect poorly on them in a sport setting. This suggests coaches may feel unsafe sharing their health experiences.

Job security and feeling overworked appear to be major challenges for elite coaches. This is perhaps unsurprising given that, like athletes, their job security depends on performance. Poor performance often leads to speculation about a coach’s job security and, in many cases, to losing their job.

Elite sport is also fast-pace, which frequently presents staff and athletes with new challenges. The dedication required to succeed in such environments often requires sacrifices in other areas of life.

Less than half of the coaches in our study report being satisfy with their work-life balance. They described the negative impacts that too much work. Work-relate stress and lacking quality time had on their quality of life and satisfaction with life.

How To Support Coaches Mental Health

To reduce stigma, we need a cultural shift in sport, media and the general community. Sporting organizations and the media need to promote the voices of coaches who have experienced health challenges.

It’s also crucial to ensure coaches can access appropriate health supports. The AIS’s Mental Health Referral Network is a good example. Those who can use this service include current and former athletes. Coaches, support staff and staff employed by Australia’s national sporting organizations.

While elite sports are highly demanding environments, coach wellbeing should still be prioritize.