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Salient: Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 25, No. 9. 1962.

Of Students Positive Aspects of Health

Of Students Positive Aspects of Health

The student with sound mental health has many advantages. Partly deliberately and consciously, and partly by intuitive responses to his environment he achieves his goals, accepts challenges or creates them for himself when necessary. He enjoys newly acquired skills and their applications. His learning capacities are stimulated, their efficiency finely honed.

Examinations and other tests of progress are experienced as stresses provoking a mild degree of anxiety, an emotional reaction that mobiles positive effort but is tolerable and transient. Along with and outside his intellectual endeavours he is a gregarious creature seeking and obtaining satisfying friendships to which he gives fully of himself. He has comfortable relationships with the opposite sex. If married his responsibilities give him added stimulus to achievement. He is idiosyncratic, a distinct individual. His feelings cause him discomfort at times but he knows why and can cope with the causes.

Many students approach this level of personality (unction which reflects a sound psyche. But it is surprising how many do not. Epidemiological studies into the prevalence of psychological ailments and illnesses among students disclose that 15% to 20% have emotional problems of one sort or another that lower capacity, inhibit potentiality, interfere with learning. A proportion of this group are indeed quite seriously ill. Some of them know they are sick. Others are aware they are frustrated and discontented but tend to regard the causes as existing outside themselves. There are some who see themselves as failures, suffer guilt and shame over lack of achievement. They are caught in a fix for each unsuccessful effort to do better adds to their sense of inadequacy.

My impression is that the number of students who know they are psychologically unwell is increasing. I do not mean that there is an overall increase in unhealthy psyches. Rather, it would seem to be the result of an increasing awareness and understanding in the student populace as a whole of what is good and what is poor mental health. Despite the spreading appreciation of the indications of psychological disfunction I believe that there is still a marked hesitation to seek appropriate advice and therapy. In this respect students at many universities in the U.S.A. differ quite strikingly from their N.Z. counterparts. They delay much less in asking for treatment and they want it fast, It is not only that early treatment is a matter of common sense and self-protection. It is a matter of economy. Struggling with psychological symptoms is painful, takes energy, and interferes with constructive effort. Indeed menial illnesses are by far and away the most frequent cause of long absence from classes amongst university students.

Thus it would seem worthwhile doing everything possible to alleviate symptoms and to prevent them from sabotaging the whole purpose of being a student

It is only for a relatively small proportion of students with symptoms that specialist psychiatric treatment is necessary. Because the patient is young and his illness is likely to be in an early stage of development, the chances are heavily in his favour that he is a good therapeutic bet. For those who are suffering minor, episodic symptoms of anxiety, emotional discomfort, interference with intellectual and social functions it is probable that counselling rather than psychiatric treatment will not only suffice for symptomatic relief but will also play a role in preventing more serious disablements.

It is for these reasons that all over the world university student health services are becoming increasingly psychologically and psychiatrically conscious. To foster mental health is to foster the student's growth, maturity, success in learning. To prevent psychiatric illness is a community service. By seeking help from the university health service, the student creates a challenge which ultimately must be met. So, It is a two way process. The evidence suggests that its development has far to go before it reaches a satisfactory equilibrium.