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“Guiding the Next Generation: Strategies for Enhancing Youth Mental Wellbeing in New Challenges”

The world is undergoing many upheavals on different fronts. As a result, we are witnessing transformative changes in our social, economic, scientific, and technological areas. How we think, interact, behave, and work is transforming. The Covid pandemic further accelerated changes. As a whole, we still have to figure out what’s happening around us and what kind of world will emerge in time to come. Likewise, we are blind to the underlying wave of mental health issues arising as a new endemic. The young generation is the worst affected on mental wellbeing.

mental health wellbeing

A crisis like situation:

Jonathan Haidt, a renowned social psychologist, says, “What you find is that they (Generation Z) have extraordinarily high rates of anxiety, depression, self-harm, suicides and fragility.” There has “never been a generation this depressed, anxious and fragile.” He called it the “national crisis of Gen Z.” Mental health problems are worsening if we look into the statistics published about the younger generation, especially in India. One student commits suicide in India every hour, with an average of 28 such suicides being reported daily, per data gathered by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB).

Vulnerability and social media:

According to the American Psychiatric Association, more than 50% of all cases of mental health conditions start by 14 and about 75% by 24. That is why this generation is called ‘highly vulnerable’. Social media is being used excessively by alarming numbers of users, particularly the student community. It has a direct biological impact on their brains when they increasingly use it. Some even claim that social media is comparable to a giant slot machine in the world. What a temptation and variety of options to seek entertainment, glamour, excitement, and pleasure are all available to us on social media platforms?

Social media and digital addiction:

We now spend most of our free time on social media, watching and disseminating information in various forms. There are endless alternatives for enjoyable entertainment on social media and the Internet, including games, videos, movies, pornographic films, and other media. The desire to use the mobiles and other gazettes more frequently is greater among young people. The cases of digital addictions are rising sharply.

Distracted mind and the mental wellbeing:

As a result, the young generation is becoming more distracted due to the greater use of social media. WhatsApp and other instant messaging platforms are consuming a huge amount of time and therefore making students more stressed and anxious about their studies. Research studies are also establishing a close link between anxiety and depression with increased usage of the Internet.

Widening generation gap:

Another reason for increased mental health related issues is the widening generation gap. The gap between Gen Z and the millennials is increasing. Youngsters are not communicating and sharing their details as there used to be earlier. Students are becoming more disconnected from their parents as well as from themselves. 

Since their performance during college and university days determines their future, students are always under emotional stress. The workload of studies, parents’ expectations, and a hyper-competitive setting all lead to the experience of high levels of stress and anxiety. This very stress and anxiety can make them susceptible to mental health problems.

What next: Now one of the biggest challenges is how to make our students more interested, productive, and
engaged with studies and their careers because of huge distractions of other non-productive activities. We
must try hard to enhance their ability to concentrate and focus more on the activities that facilitate their career endeavour. We need to make them mentally fit and resilient to face modern-day challenges. Their lifestyle should make them mentally healthy / mental wellbeing.

Why do we need mindfulness?

The first and foremost requirement for the young generation is to handle their stress and anxiety. When not addressed timely and effectively, stress becomes chronic, which is the beginning of many mental health-related conditions. We need to practice mindfulness to handle stress, anxiety, and typical restlessness among students. Mindfulness plays a significant role in improving our overall mental wellbeing.

According to research, the practice helps people manage stress, depression, addiction, and anxiety. It has been shown to be effective in people with health conditions like hypertension, chronic pain, and heart failure. When we practice mindfulness, it gets easy to identify stress, anxiety, or depression signals early on. We become more positive in how we respond to signs of mental health problems. Mindfulness can teach us how to manage our emotions in a way that positively changes our behaviour.

How to develop mindfulness?

The only way to develop mindfulness is to practice and experience more and more present moments. Try to maximize our experiences of being fully aware and awake. We need to make a conscious effort to bring back our wandering minds to the present. We should keep doing this simple exercise of returning our attention to the present. This should be in the back of our minds all the time. Though it sounds simple and easy, it’s challenging to practice. We generally need to observe our minds more carefully. Hence, the best way to cultivate mindfulness is to practice meditation.

Stress management:

when the workload of studies and the pressure of parents and their expectations increase beyond their capacity to handle them leads to mental stress. Stress is, in fact, valuable and needed as it prompts us to do our best. Still, it increases from a certain optimum level, and then the problematic stress triggers. To manage our stress levels, we need to manage our time well and keep our priorities right. By creating a list or plan of when we can handle each issue, we can manage our obligations and concerns. Most of the time, stress arises when our priorities are misplaced, and we waste time on unproductive and trivial matters.

Self-care and mental wellbeing:

To keep ourselves physically and mentally healthy (mental wellbeing) and fit, we must set our lifestyle right. Otherwise, most physical illnesses begin due to unhealthy lifestyles and bad habits. To begin with, we should sleep well and adequately. That is essential for our physical and mental wellbeing. Eating healthy food is crucial for our bodies as well as our minds. A lack of some vitamins and minerals, such as Vit D, iron and vitamin B12, can make us sick in many different ways. Another essential ingredient of a healthy lifestyle is regular exercise. Also, avoid drinking, smoking, and using drugs. They all contribute negatively to our mental wellbeing.

Create and pursue passions:

Do something enjoyable. Try to schedule a time to appreciate the exciting things we want to do. Try to make time for our passions. When we are absorbed in exciting and time-absorbing activities, we inculcate mindfulness which makes us happy and enjoyable. The list of passions is long; we can find time to pursue a few of them.  

Make friends and be sociable:

Make an effort to keep up positive relationships and converse with others whenever possible. The relationships nurtured during college and university days last throughout our lifetime. Having friends is crucial for our happiness and self-esteem and for supporting us when we’re not feeling well. 

Take Away: the world is witnessing huge changes all around us. The world is becoming a better place, but at the same time, we are seeing many crises. One of the most critical crises after climate change is increasing stress and mental sickness. Unfortunately, the young generation is worst affected. Their lives are adversely impacted. The young generation must be made aware and make them conscious of their mental health issues. More emphasis must be laid in an educational setting so that they are prompted to take actions that are needed to make them mental wellbeing fit and healthy.