World Mental Health Day – Investing in Mental Health Care for young people now and beyond COVID-19

Students And Youth Working on Reproductive Health Action Team (SAYWHAT) will today join the globe in commemorating the World Mental Health Day under the theme: “Mental Health for All. Greater Investment – Greater Access.” In that breath SAYWHAT has adopted the theme as “Investing in mental health for young people now and beyond COVID-19”.

As SAYWHAT we have come to realise the importance of investing in mental health programmes for students and young people within and out of school now more than ever before. The coming of COVID-19 pandemic presented a myriad of challenges to young people with the potential of triggering mental health problems. Some of these challenges included but not limited to increased cases of family disputes due to lockdowns, increased cases Gender-Based Violence, witnessing parents or breadwinners losing their jobs, having loved ones succumbing to COVID-19, having to study online amidst data poverty amongst some students, depression, elevated rates of anxiety, posttraumatic stress disorder and negative societal behaviours. More sadly, the uncertainty that COVID-19 brought to the student life at college includes not knowing when they will graduate.

The underlying factor in all this being that the students are not certain of what will happen to them during and post the COVID-19 pandemic. This therefore calls for collaborative efforts amongst health institutions and government in coming up with effective strategies to minimize mental health challenges amongst students and young people. The time to start investing adequately in mental health is now – the call can no longer be ignored! There is need to ensure that everyone, everywhere has access to mental health care.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines health as a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity while mental health is defined as the state of well-being in which the individual realises his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make contributions to his or her community.

As a non-clinical health institution, SAYWHAT believes one’s mental health plays a key role in the decisions that they make in all spheres of life – it all starts in the mind. If Sexual and Reproductive Health programming is to become a huge success, the information shared during programming has to land on healthy minds.

Hence this year, for the first time ever we will host an online advocacy event on mental health that seeks to bring out mental health issues affecting young people during this COVID-19 era as well as discuss how these can be managed. We believe this program and more to come will provide students and young people with the much needed information on how they can manage their mental health.

Happy World Mental Health Day!

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