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Number of students dropping out over mental health problems triples

A British study has found that that the number of students who dropped out of university with mental health problems has more than tripled from 2009 to 2015.

The data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) found that 1,180 students who experienced mental health problems left university in the 2014-2015 school year – a staggering 210 percent increase from 380 students in 2009-2010.

Dropout rates aren’t the only things increasing in the U.K. either. The same data shows that students requests for counseling increased by 28 percent between 2014 and 2016 – and demand in 2017 is already outpacing that of previous years, even though the academic year was not complete when the data was collected.

According to the Guardian, the data has prompted a number of organizations across the U.K. to ensure the right supports are in place to support students with mental health issues. The paper reports that some universities are cutting back on the number of counselors they use, or not recruiting more to meet the demand. Increased demand for services has also resulted in longer wait times for mental health services.

The main issues for which students are seeking support are anxiety (up 43 percent in the past two years) and depression (up 39 percent over the same period).


Improve Your Health With The 7 Dimensions of Wellness

When we talk about health, we often emphasize diet and exercise, but physical health is only one of the seven dimensions of wellness. June is Professional Wellness Month. As you focus on your well-being in your personal and professional life this month, be sure you’re taking steps to improve all seven areas of wellness. Take a closer look at these dimensions of wellness below.

Social Wellness

Social wellness highlights positive relationships with friends, family, and co-workers. It also involves balancing those relationships. Focusing on your social wellness allows you to build a supportive network as well as establish trust, communication skills, and conflict management skills. Social wellness can be nurtured by keeping in touch with family and friends, joining social groups, such as clubs or organizations, and practicing active listening.

Physical Wellness

Physical wellness involves adopting healthy habits that affect your physical body. This includes both diet and exercise as well as lifestyle choices such as avoiding tobacco and alcohol, seeing your doctor regularly, and balancing your activities as to avoid unnecessary physical stress. You can also improve your physical wellness by getting enough sleep at night and practicing safe sex.

Emotional Wellness

Emotional wellness refers to your mental health. It encompasses the ability to understand yourself, share your feelings, and cope with life’s challenges. Emotional wellness is important for stress relief, decision making, and learning from your experiences. This dimension of wellness can be improved through optimism, meditation, self-acceptance, and awareness. Daily activities involve seeking or accepting help when needed and expressing gratitude.

Career Wellness

Career wellness, or occupational wellness, emphasizes personal fulfillment through your career choices. This dimension of wellness focuses particularly on job satisfaction and the meaning individuals find through work. Conflict management in the workplace is also an important aspect of career wellness.

When seeking to balance your career wellness with the other wellness dimensions, start by reflecting on your occupational needs. Do you feel fulfilled in your job role? If you’re unhappy where you are, is it due to your career choice or your current job or employer? Consider exploring both paid work and volunteer opportunities to identify your interests. Nurture your career wellness by setting realistic goals and working to achieve them.

Intellectual Wellness

Intellectual wellness is about engaging in mentally stimulating experiences and trying new things. This may involve going to school, practicing new skills in the workplace, or expanding your knowledge in your personal life. Personal hobbies and community activities can be as equally stimulating as academics. Intellectual wellness is practiced through open-mindedness, creative expression, hobbies, travel, and more.

Environmental Wellness

Environmental wellness refers to how you impact your environment. This can include your immediate environment, such as your home or office, as well as the world. On a small scale, you can improve your environmental wellness by organizing your space so you feel comfortable in your everyday environment. On a global scale, this dimension of wellness can be practiced through environmental-friendly activities such as recycling, carpooling, shopping local, and more.

Spiritual Wellness

Spiritual wellness focuses on tuning into your spiritual self and finding peace in your life. This can be achieved through practicing a religious faith, but it also emphasizes defining and sticking to your own morals, ethics, and values. Religion is not needed in spiritual wellness, but it’s a route many people take to find meaning and connect with their inner selves. Along with religion, practicing self-reflection, meditation, and acceptance can help improve a person’s spiritual dimension of wellness.

The seven dimensions of wellness can be remembered through the acronym SPECIES. It takes all the pieces of the puzzle to balance one another and achieve a strong sense of well-being. What will you do this month to improve your overall wellness?


Online mindfulness training reduces stress, improves resiliency: Study

A new study has found that participating in online mindfulness training for just five to 10 minutes per day can reduce stress, increase resilience and boost engagement at work.

The study of 178 Canadian first responders had them complete a 30-day mindfulness challenge this past March to see the impact of such training on their mental health. After participating in online mindfulness training for just five to 10 minutes a day for 30 consecutive days, the responders experienced less stress, greater resilience and increased engagement at work. The first responders serve in policing, fire, EMT, rescue, ER, 911 and the military. Vancouver-based MindWell-U donated the training.

“The 30 Day Mindfulness Challenge is an evidence-based mental health tool that supports employees in the workplace. Because it’s just a few minutes a day and accessible from any device at any time, we thought it could really benefit first responders,” says Dr. Geoff Soloway, Co-Founder and Chief Training Officer at MindWell-U. “The Challenge also teaches something we call ‘mindfulness-in-action’ so participants learn how to be mindful in the middle of whatever they’re doing, whether that be delivering a lecture, closing a deal, operating heavy machinery or responding to an emergency.”

The first responders reported the following outcomes:

  • 95% feeling better about their health and wellbeing
  • 93% managing stress better
  • 92% practicing greater self-care
  • 92% focusing better on tasks
  • 91% engaging more with work
  • 91% managing conflict better
  • 89% treating others more kindly
  • 88% communicating better
  • 83% experiencing improved leadership skills
  • 81% collaborating better with others
  • 80% managing time better

In addition, 97% of participants were satisfied with the training, and almost everyone said they had integrated mindfulness into their life and plan to stick with it.

“The 30 Day Mindfulness Challenge taught me to take a step back and look at things more clearly instead of getting caught up in the moment,” says one Toronto area paramedic.  “Learning to respond instead of react has lowered my stress and made me more effective at my job whether I’m driving an ambulance or administering first aid.”


The top 5 trends in corporate wellness programs

It’s no secret that corporate wellness programs can reduce health care costs for both physical and mental health. But what type of wellness programs should companies implement to get the most bang for their buck?

In an article for Corporate Wellness magazine, Gerry Morton, the CEO of EnergyFirst, identifies the top five wellness trends that can help companies. They include:

  1. Fitness challenges and contests

This can be anything from office marathons to course competitions or weight loss challenges. Morton says offering a monetary reward for winners help encourage participation.

Another challenge is encouraging employees to participate in a race, often fundraising for charity to make it even more appealing. Having employees work together to both fundraise and run a 5K, 10K, half marathon or marathon is a great way of boosting employees’ health and mental health.

  1. Flu shot and vaccination programs

Offering on-site (and free) clinics where employees can get vaccines for the flu, measles, pneumonia and shingles encourages employees to get those necessary vaccinations done. This also helps prevent employee illness and the downtime (and costs) associated with them.

  1. Nutrition/weight management education programs

Education and counseling to help employees combat health issues such as high Body Mass Index (BMI), high cholesterol and high blood pressure are a great way to improve employee health. Consider bringing in a nutritionist for “lunch and learn” sessions or even cooking classes to help employees get their diets on track.

  1. Healthy desks

There’s a new trend toward treadmill desks, standing desks, swapping out chairs with fitness balls, and even active desks with small bike pedals underneath them. The trend isn’t just a fad – studies have shown that sitting too long can be detrimental to one’s health.

Many of these ergonomically-friendly desks have even more benefits, including reducing musculoskeletal injuries caused by things like carpal tunnel syndrome.

  1. Health coaching and therapy

On-site, face-to-face wellness coaching and therapy is the next big thing in employee wellness, Morton says. Bringing in coaching for employees empowers them to change their behaviors, which in turn lowers their risk for health issues.


Post-secondary institutions struggle to keep pace with mental health issues

Students are starting to demand more mental health resources on campus, but post-secondary institutions are struggling to keep up with the demand.

A Maclean’s survey of 17,000 Canadian post-secondary students found that 14% of respondents said they had poor mental health, while 10% said their school’s mental health services were either poor or horrible.

Some schools are currently working to bridge this gap. McGill University is trying to combat this with a program where professors can contact the dean of students should they see a student is struggling. Professors are asked to send an “expression of concern” to the dean if a student seems distracted in class or is frequently absent. The dean of students then follows up and offers help if it is needed.

Another school, the University of Calgary, has launched the Campus Mental Health Strategy to identify mental health problems early. As part of the program, the school created a partnership program with resources already available in the city to offer 24-7 mental health support, in addition to hosting workshops to talk about issues such as the stigma of mental health and offer suicide intervention training.

Smaller campuses, however, are still struggling to offer the right support, according to Maclean’s. Mount Allison University in Sackville, New Brunswick, is feeling the pinch with most of its psychologists based 50km away in Moncton. Wait times to see a counselor can run between six weeks and three months.


“Imposter” syndrome causes mental distress in minority students

A new study from the University of Texas at Austin says “imposter” syndrome – feeling like a fraud because of an inability to internalize success – is prevalent in minority students, and it can have an impact on their mental health.

The study, published in the Journal of Counseling Psychology, says students who suffer from imposter feelings don’t believe in their successes, even if they are high-achieving students. The study focused on black, Asian and Latino students in a Southwestern U.S. university.

Researchers found that black students who dealt with “imposterism” also reported higher levels of anxiety and depression related to discrimination. Asian students with imposter-type feelings were also more anxious and depressed, however this wasn’t found to be related to discrimination.

The study’s authors recommend that counselors explore specifically if students of color are grappling with feelings of imposter syndrome. What are some things that can help students overcome this? Try counseling students to follow one of these tips:

  1. Accept that they have played a role in their success
  2. Keep a file of nice things people say about them
  3. Stop comparing themselves to others (and, in particular, take a break from social media)
  4. Recognize the symptoms of imposter syndrome and acknowledge them
  5. Undertake stream-of-consciousness writing experiments
  6. Talk to others about their feelings

SUNY pilot program to offer 24/7 mental health counselling

The State University of New York (SUNY) is moving forward with a $1.5 million plan to pilot a telehealth counselling program after more than half of 19,000 students surveyed reported having an anxiety disorder.

According to a recent article on the Times Union website, a third of students surveyed also reported having depression, while a quarter said they had another mental health disorder. School executives then put together a task force to determine whether or not mental health supports were adequate – and found them lacking on all campuses.

SUNY trustees have now voted in favour of launching the telehealth pilot program this fall at five campuses in an attempt to improve students’ mental health. The program would see trained mental health professionals provide support to students via telephone 24/7.

The telehealth program is designed to reach more students in times of crisis than traditional counselling programs that may have set hours and locations. Some students may also have difficulty attending face-to-face appointments, or discussing their mental health issues in person.

The program has the added benefit of being cost-effective. “This is a relatively inexpensive way to make a huge change on our campuses,” Marc Cohen, SUNY Student Assembly president, told the Times Union. “If this pilot works the way we hope it will, it will be responsible for creating a shared network of counselling services across our 64 campuses.

The telehealth program can also help compensate for a nationwide shortage of psychiatrists, as it will share counselling services across campuses.

 


Stress caused by insecure work causes mental health issues: Survey

Precarious work is bad for one’s mental and physical health, according to a new survey of nearly 5,000 workers by the Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL).

Almost one-third of survey respondents cite mental and physical health issues as impacts of precarious work. Young people (18 to 34 years), precarious workers, and women are more likely to experience mental health distress.

“We need to consider the whole picture when it comes to employment, instead of just businesses’ bottom line,” says OFL President Chris Buckley. “I think that’s what business critics are missing, when we talk about changing the employment laws to make improvements for workers. Precarious work makes people sick – period.”

The survey also found that:

  • More than one-quarter of all survey respondents are currently precariously employed (i.e., part-time, temporary).
  • More than 40 per cent of precarious workers cited full time jobs/stable income as a concern about their economic situation.
  • Of those young survey respondents (18 to 34 years), 45 per cent currently have a precarious job.
  • Nearly 90 per cent of all survey respondents have children, family members and/or friends who are precariously employed.
  • More than 80 per cent of survey respondents recognize that precarious work is more common today than five or 10 years ago.
  • Wages/pay equity and benefits were identified as top priorities across all demographics.

What are some changes governments can make to reduce the level of insecure work? The OFL recommends changing employment laws so that precarious employment contracts are no longer the norm. Increasing the minimum wage so that workers can make a living is another recommendation often touted as helping reduce precarious employment.


Here’s What Stress Does to Your Body (And How to Manage It)

Chronic stress is a real health problem today, and reports show that stress levels are only on the rise. In small doses, stress is actually good for you. It activates your “fight or flight” response that allows you to quickly react to a situation and get yourself out of harm’s way. Chronic stress, however, means that fight or flight response is always activated. Over time, it can affect your body as well as your mental health. Take a look at what stress can do to your body and how you can manage it.

Stress Hurts the Heart

Stress is both an emotional and physical response to stimuli. Stress triggers the release of hormones, including adrenaline, cortisol, and noradrenaline. This causes your heart rate to spike and your blood vessels to dilate. In an acute stress situation—such as slamming on the breaks when someone pulls out in front of you—this helps you react quickly. However, when you’re in a constant state of stress, due to job pressures or financial worries for instance, your heart rate remains elevated as do your stress hormone levels. Long-term stress like this increases your risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke.

Harvard Health suggests that the stress and cardiovascular health link may go beyond these hormones. When people are stressed, they often change their behaviors, such as indulging in unhealthy comfort food, drinking alcohol, or smoking.

The first step to stay heart-healthy is to reduce your stress levels. Engage in activities that make you happy and laugh, take a moment each day to meditate, and continue to exercise. Not only does exercise release mood-boosting chemicals in the body, but it helps by lowering your blood pressure and reducing your risk of heart disease.

Stress Tenses the Muscles

As part of the stress response, your body’s muscles tense. It’s your body’s way of guarding itself against injury when a physical threat presents itself. Your muscles should relax once the threat disappears. The problem is that in today’s high-stress world, individuals who suffer from chronic stress always have their guard up, so their muscles remain tense on a daily basis. This may not seem like a health concern on the surface, but it can lead to more serious issues. Headaches and migraines, for example, can both arise in response to chronic muscle tension.

Setting aside time each day for relaxation exercises can help reduce these effects on the body. Deep breathing, stretching, yoga, or listening to soothing music can all help ease your tension and reduce headache and migraine occurrence. The best part? Many of these relaxation exercises can be incorporated into your day without you having to plan extra time for them. For example, you might practice deep breathing on your commute to work or listen to music while working if your employer allows it.

Stress Affects Digestion

Chronic stress takes a real toll on your gastrointestinal tract. When stress causes you to turn to comfort foods, alcohol, or tobacco, these behaviors can lead to heartburn and acid reflux. Stress also affects your stomach and can cause nausea and even vomiting in severe cases. When you’re stressed, your brain becomes more alert of the pain in your digestive system, which can intensify stomach pain and heartburn. In long-term stress situations, stomach ulcers can occur. It even impacts the nutrients your body absorbs and can change how fast or slow food moves through your system. Both diarrhea and constipation are common symptoms of stress.

The best thing to do, apart from taking steps to reduce your stress, is to continue on a healthy diet. Not only will this help reduce some of the symptoms mentioned above, but the right foods can help combat stress. One study from the University of Otago found that college students reported feeling calmer, happier, and more energetic on days when they consumed more fruits and vegetables.

Stress affects many areas of your mental and physical health, but maintaining a healthy lifestyle will reduce symptoms and combat stress before it gets out of hand. What will you do today to manage your stress and improve your physical health?


Is Your Health Affecting Your Job Performance? Here’s What the Science Says

 

What’s your number one priority in life? Most people probably won’t list “health” first. Some may not even say “family.” In many cases, “work” takes that number one spot. But can focusing on your work and ignoring your health hurt you? Here’s what the research has to say about it.

Overworking Yourself Hurts Your Productivity

In a world of go-go-go, it’s easy to get wrapped up in work and forget about your personal health. Logic says that the more hours you work, the more you’ll get done. Sounds reasonable, right? On the contrary, that assumption is false.

These days, people are working harder than ever before. In Great Britain, for example, 68 percent of employees say they are working harder than they were two years ago. That said, most feel they’re working harder rather than smarter, and only 10 percent think they’re more productive than two years ago but not working harder, says independent research organization The Smith Institute.

In the U.S., one study showed that working over 55 hours a week does very little to help your productivity. Putting in 70 hours of work results in about the same output as 56 hours of work per week. Once you put in more than 55 hours, your productivity declines drastically.

Part of this trend could be attributed to personal care and health. The more you work, the less time you’re able to devote to your personal and emotional well-being. It becomes very easy to get burnt out. Instead of working longer hours, it pays to use that time to take a break and focus on you so you can get more done during your working hours.

Healthy Diet and Exercise Improve Productivity

Still skeptical about the health and productivity link? It’s not just about working yourself too much. One survey reported by Business News Daily and conducted by the Health Enhancement Research Organization, the Center for Health Research at Healthways, and Brigham Young University found that employees who eat a healthy diet daily were 25 percent more likely to have higher job performance. Even those who eat five or more servings of fruits and veggies four times per week saw a 20 percent higher chance of being more productive.

The same study showed that people who exercised for 30 minutes three times a week also saw a boost in job performance. Healthier employees—those who ate healthy and exercised regularly—experienced 27 percent less absenteeism than the other employees in the study.

Obese workers see about 11 percent lower job performance as well as higher absenteeism. That’s even considering obese employees against those who have chronic conditions or suffer from depression. That doesn’t necessarily mean that obesity is the problem. It could mean that a healthy diet and exercise regimen, which can lower obesity rates, can also boost productivity and work attendance.

It Goes Both Ways

Not only does your health affect your work, but your work affects your health. One report showed that about 4 in 10 people don’t take their vacation days. Still, the average person misses over three important events a year, with children’s activities at the top of the list.

Working too much and leaving your vacation days on the table means that people are spending less time building relationships with their loved ones. Eighty-five percent agree that they’re losing time with their children and significant others by not taking time off, and 36 percent of couples argue about it. The majority of American workers spend less than 20 hours a week dedicated to quality family time.

Another report by Quantum Workplace shows that if you take time off, you’ll be 14 percent more engaged when you return to work. In addition to time off, employees report they’re 18 percent more engaged when they receive time for healthy activities and when they’re provided a flexible schedule.

The science is clear: Ignoring your personal health puts your productivity on the decline, and caring for your mind and body boosts productivity. Work and personal life are two dynamic factors that affect your overall well-being, and by striving for balance, you will find both sides of the coin improve drastically.