Celebrating World Mental Health Day

Today is World Mental Health Day. We took this opportunity to sit down with Jeremy Ruiters, our Student Wellness Manager at ALC Mauritius, to find out what this means and how did mental health awareness come to life at ALU.

 

What does ‘Mental Health’ mean and why has it recently taken up a lot of global interest?

‘Mental Health’ is a phrase used to describe our psychological and emotional well-being, which has garnered a lot of media attention recently. I believe this attention is long overdue: it is likely the result of a spike in reported cases of mental illness and the fact that these have a serious impact on both individuals and society at large. We also have a lot more access to information these days, so it’s easier to disseminate information and raise awareness about people struggling with mental illnesses.

Why is it important for individuals to be deliberate about Mental Health practices?

For exactly the same reason that it’s essential we take care of our bodies: you need to manage your emotional and psychological well-being. It’s sometimes easier to work out and eat healthy because we can see the tangible effects on our bodies but people don’t find it easy to recognize their emotional and psychological state which is why they are less deliberate about mental health practices – they can’t see the immediate impact. Mental health is part of our holistic wellness makeup and goes hand in hand with physical well-being and other areas of wellness. For example, when you exercise, this stimulates your mind as much as your body and helps you think better and become more productive. All these elements are interconnected. Mental wellness also varies in understanding across different contexts. Some contexts could be life stages (e.g. teenage phase, adulthood) or even geographical location (e.g. Kenyan or American context). At ALU, our understanding of mental health is linked to the students’ academic and career development. This is considerably different when compared to what mental wellness looks like in a psychiatric institution for example.

What are some of the indications that someone is struggling with their Mental Health?

This varies entirely from person to person. Different people show signs of struggles with their mental health in different ways. I’d say, however, that one sign is the consistency with which one is in a certain mental state. For instance, having a bad day from time to time is not a sign of mental illness. However, feeling really down continuously or over a long period of time could be a sign that something is not quite right. Secondly, if you notice a drastic shift in someone’s behavior, that could also be an indicator. This refers specifically to an extremity – for example, they either become completely outgoing and interactive or they become absolutely withdrawn and disconnected as compared to their normal behavior.

How can we better take care of ourselves and support others when it comes to Mental Health?

For ourselves, it boils down to firstly defining what mental health looks like in our own context, reflecting on how or where we want to be emotionally and psychologically and then learning to strike a balance by implementing practices that help make those goals a reality. With regards to supporting others, we should create campaigns and hold conversations where we discuss mental health maturely and ask questions that allow us to explore the topic more deeply. Creating a space where people can talk about mental health freely can remove any stigma that may be attached, and could also result in people finding connections with the struggles of others and realizing that they are not alone.

What does Mental Health Awareness at ALU entail?

The mental health awareness campaign is a collaboration between the ALC Student Life Team and Annick Shimwa from the Social Transformation arm of the Student Representative Council in Mauritius. We have an interactive platform that prompts students to think through how they are feeling, a week-long screening that shows movies and informative videos of young people navigating the world of wellness and mental health with a debrief thereafter to unpack the key learnings from the films, as well as an online discussion hosted by students over the school’s official Instagram account. We celebrated the World Mental Health Day by encouraging people to share their stories with the hashtag #MentalHealthStory.

About ALU

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They develop the real-world skills to take on the world’s most pressing challenges. And they take ownership of their learning from day one through our peer and student-led approach – because ALU believes in the power and agency of young people to start shaping the future right now.

Together with a world-class faculty and staff, our students are igniting a ripple of positive impact across Africa and the world. Join us

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