Today (10th October) is World Mental Health Day. And while it is a day to focus on all areas of mental health, the specific focus of the World Federation for Mental Health this year is on our youth (1).
Stop, just for a moment, and reflect upon how different it is growing up today, when compared to 10, 15 or 20 years ago. Lots of things might spring to mind. Growing up even more than 2 decades ago can, at times, seem beyond comparison to what it is like to grow up today.
Bullying, as traumatic as it can be, used to be just confined to the playground. Now, it can reach all areas of someone’s life, given the omnipresence of tech and social media. Cyber bullying has taken it all to this new level, where people can literally not escape the influence of bullies and trolls.
And our minds become more used to what they experience at times – and the rise of video games can be a wonderful thing. It can be used for the training of surgeons and pilots, armed forces and desensitisation for those suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD). Yet it is also a boom area of tech, given the technical difficulties in making black-market copies of games it is highly lucrative – and the rise of violent games has potentially let to exposures that children would have never experienced before.
All of this is on a background of an education system that has been slow to pivot to help provide support and skills around how to best manage these areas of technology and their impact on mental health.
So, the focus this year is on the mental health of our youth. How can they be supported to grow resilience, to ensure that they have the skills to maintain happiness and health in an ever-changing, mentally-taxing world?
The good news is that the areas of psychology that are focused on resilience are blooming with evidence. Studies support a wide range of effective skills that, when learned and practiced daily, can help protect out mental health. Stress-management skills are starting to be taught in the workplace, with the small cost of teaching offset by the massive savings in productivity. They can improve both absentee-ism, as well as presentee-ism (where someone is at work, but not actually being productive, and all things being equal, should really be off sick).
There are lots of ways that you can show your support this World Mental Health Day. You can order a green pin badge to show it. You can make a ‘tea and talk’, where you have tea with friends and invite donations to the Mental Health Foundation. Or you can check in with yourself or a friend or colleague, to see how they are doing. How will you act to help make this World Mental Health Day one that helps?