Building a university health culture

Yael Weinstein, psychologist and coordinator of the Mental Health Team at the Student Health Directorate, offers her insights into tackling this issue at our university.

Depression is a mood disorder characterized, according to the World Health Organization, by persistent sadness and lack of interest or pleasure in activities that were previously rewarding and enjoyable¹.

This condition, as well as associated psychiatric disorders, can have a profound impact on all aspects of life, especially academic performance, productivity at work, family and social relationships, and the ability to participate in society.

In this context, he calls us to ask ourselves: To what extent does this affect our university students specifically?

In a study published by the Millennium Institute for Research on Depression and Personality², it was found that female students show greater symptoms of depression, and that levels of depression among students do not differ by institution, age, or socioeconomic level. At the same time, a study by Barrera and Vinette³ indicates that rates of reported depressive disorders among college students nationally and internationally tend to be higher compared to the general population.

The above allows us to ensure that the students of our university are a group at risk, and for this reason, as a health department, we are driven to assume a great commitment to the mental health of students, working hard to increase and innovate the offer of mental health promotion, prevention and care activities at the University of Chile.

We are talking about a period of life characterized by a change in developmental stage, giving way to what is called emerging adulthood⁴, a period of vital exploration to build personal identity. The increased academic demand and pressure to perform compared to the academic stage increases the change in the social scenario and the necessity of forming a peer group that makes the university experience meaningful. Besides, we cannot ignore the reality of the country and the difficulty in being able to access professional mental health care in a timely manner.

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The good news is that the same MIDAP study showed that the higher the level of students' psychological well-being, the lower the level of depressive symptoms. This sets guidelines for how to meet the challenge of university mental health. According to research published in the Chilean Medical Journal in 2019⁵, the factors most relevant to promoting well-being were independence, positive relationships with others, and life purpose. By understanding this, the big challenge we then face is how to create learning spaces that align with the development of these points and that are tangentially reflected in the learning process.

From this standpoint, community discussions become vitally important on topics such as achieving a lifestyle that provides well-being in line with study and performance, enhancing spaces for meeting with others, promoting social initiatives, student participation, and updating study plans to keep pace with the current era, which contribute to generating meaning for tasks. Futurism.

I believe that our path must be to adhere to these development axes, not only as psychosocial support teams for students, but rather we must imprint these affirmations on the entire university experience during its various stages, so that we can build an educational community that works to enhance the well-being and health of students, and contribute to building a society that allows… For people to develop their full potential in a healthy way.

sources:

1.-World Health Organization, https://www.who.int/es/health-topics/la-d%C3%A9pressure#tab=tab_3

2.- Medap, regular fundicite 1150166

3.-Barrera-Herrera A, Vinet E. Emerging adulthood and the cultural characteristics of the stage in Chilean university students. Ter Psychol 2017; 35 (1): 47-56.

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4.-Arnett JJ. Emerging adulthood. Theory of development from the late teens through the twenties. I am 2000 myself

5.- Medical Journal. Chile Volume 147 No. 5, Santiago May 2019.

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