World Mental Health Day and Enhancing Students’ Mental Wellbeing in a Post-COVID World

Tammie MOO and Serena TAN
Office of Student Affairs (OSA)

Tammie and Serena share some activities their team at the Office of Student Affairs (OSA) initiated to enhance students’ mental health and wellbeing.

Participants enjoying the Polymer Clay workshop over Zoom. Workshop materials are delivered to the workshop participants so that they can tune in to the workshop from the comfort of their homes. (Courtesy of OSA)

Introduction

2020 has been a difficult year, with widespread reports on the COVID-19 pandemic’s negative effects on the psychological wellbeing of individuals, including young people (Grubic et al., 2020). Particularly, in the space of youth mental health, student surveys such as YoungMinds reported that 83% of their youth respondents agreed that the pandemic’s effects worsened their mental health (YoungMinds, 2020), caused primarily by school closures, minimised social interaction and disrupted routines. These gave rise to social isolation as well as the onset of psychological issues like anxiety, problems with sleep, and depression. There is therefore increased urgency to provide interventions, as described in this post, in addressing the pandemic’s negative effects and working with students on the importance of prioritising their mental health and wellbeing during difficult times. 

Applying the 7 P.I.T.S.T.O.P. Principles

The introduction of the 7 P.I.T.S.T.O.P. Principles by the Office of Student Affairs (OSA) Student Wellness team at the National University of Singapore (NUS) is one strategy aimed at students to reinforce the importance of taking care of their mental health and wellbeing (Chng, 2020).

Figure 1. The official designs for the 7 P.I.T.S.T.O.P. Principles. Click here to find out more!

The convenience and flexibility of meeting online allowed the team to share on the 7 P.I.T.S.T.O.P. Principles at orientation talks organised by the various faculties. An animated video was also created from the perspective of Taylor, a Year 2 Engineering student, on how she incorporated the 7 P.I.T.S.T.O.P. Principles in her daily living where she faced challenges adapting to university as a freshman.

Overcoming “Zoom Fatigue” to Enhance Mental Wellbeing

The convenience of access to the online space also comes with its own issues. The buzzword “Zoom fatigue” stems from the rising exhaustion people are facing from having to meet via the Zoom virtual space for long hours, sometimes even for back-to-back online meetings (Walker, 2020). Our NUS students were also not spared, with more than half of the lessons offered by the various faculties in NUS being converted to online sessions as part of safety measures to prevent overcrowding on campus and to ensure the safety of the NUS community. Increased safety measures also meant less opportunities for students to interact face-to-face over shared interests such as participating in co-curricular activities.

Wellness Festival 2020

Recognising this, OSA Student Wellness, together with the Student Support Managers (SSMs) at the faculties worked together to organise the inaugural Wellness Festival 2020. This Festival gave NUS students the opportunity to participate in hands-on activities while learning the importance of mental wellbeing in the safety and comfort of their homes. The workshop materials were couriered to students together with an encouragement note, and students tuned in to the Festival’s Zoom workshops at the allocated time to interact with other participants. The event received tremendous support from the NUS student community, with 28 sold-out workshops and over 990 sign ups (Figure 2).

Figure 2. Workshops during Wellness Festival 2020, comprising a mix of Zoom and face-to-face sessions with appropriate safety measures.

 

World Mental Health Day and the #PitStopChallenge

Wellness Festival 2020 was also organised in conjunction with World Mental Health Day, a global movement observed annually on 10 October aimed at raising awareness of mental health issues as well as the importance of mental health support. The first ever #PitStopChallenge, kick-started on 10 October 2020 on OSA’s Instagram page @nusstudentaffairs, was an online event where students were encouraged to submit Instagram stories of how they practiced the P.I.T.S.T.O.P. Principles in their day-to-day activities. The challenge received over 660 entries from more than 150 participants (Figure 3).

Figure 3. Awesome entries from the #PitStopChallenge.
Figure 4. You all rocked it at the Wellness Festival 2020!
Click on the screenshot to watch the video.

 

Concluding Thoughts

The rising importance placed on mental health will continue and as Estelle Lim, undergraduate from the Faculty of Dentistry and one of our participants of the Wellness Festival 2020 points out, “Mental health is something I hold close to my heart and I believe strongly that everyone ought to take it more carefully.” (Tan, 2020).

 

Tammie is part of the Student Wellness Team under the Office of Student Affairs (OSA). She advocates on the importance of self-care and mental well-being through organising workshops and Wellness Campaigns for the student body. She enjoys interacting with students and learning about their varied experiences. Tammie practices self-care by cooking for her family and friends.

This post was co-written by Tammie and Serena Tan, who was recruited under the SGUnited Traineeship Programme to support efforts in raising awareness on the importance of Wellbeing amongst NUS students. Serena was key in rolling out the Wellness Festival 2020 as well as overseeing the #PitStop Challenge campaign.

Tammie can be reached at tammie@nus.edu.sg.

Serena was recruited under the SGUnited Traineeship Programme to support efforts in raising awareness on the importance of Wellbeing amongst NUS students. She was key in rolling out the Wellness Festival 2020 as well as oversee the #PitStop Challenge campaign.

 

References

Chng, J. (2020, October 21). 7 P.I.T.S.T.O.P. principles for mental wellness. Teaching Connections. https://blog.nus.edu.sg/teachingconnections/2020/10/21/7-p-i-t-s-t-o-p-principles-for-mental-wellness/

Grubic, N., Badovinac, S., & Johri, A. M. (2020). Student mental health in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic: A call for further research and immediate solutions. International Journal of Social Psychiatry, 66(5), 517-518. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F0020764020925108

Walker, T. (2020, October 16). How ‘Zoom fatigue’ impacts communication with students. NEA News. https://www.nea.org/advocating-for-change/new-from-nea/how-zoom-fatigue-impacts-communication-students

Tan, S. (2020, October 15). The art of being mentally healthy. Office of Student Affairs: Stories. http://nus.edu.sg/osa/stories/details/Index/the-art-of-being-mentally-healthy

YoungMinds (2020, March). Coronavirus: Impact on young people with mental health needs. London: YoungMinds. https://youngminds.org.uk/media/3708/coronavirus-report_march2020.pdf