Brighten Youth Education Centre



We're all mad here


Lewis Carroll’s Cheshire Cat was on to something. A few weeks ago we ran a series on student mental health issues. We’re returning to this important topic to offer more pragmatic suggestions, particularly as we’re about to enter exam season and the pressure mounts for many. Most school, colleges and universities offer tutor support and counselling services, but what if you feel you can’t explain your struggles through such routes?

Some students are more comfortable seeking solace online. Some apps, like Silent Secret and KoKo allow you to post stories anonymously, letting people offer a different perspective on your problems. You can search for specific support groups for a particular “issue” you may have (coming out as gay or trans, eating disorders, depression, sexual health) or you can explore broader charities with a mental health focus. Try to use official charities and support groups. Their message boards are patrolled so you can avoid cruel and unhelpful trolling.

As with everything else, there’s an app for that. The mental health charity Mind have recently released the Emoodji app which allows students to use emojis, or selfies or photographs with an emoji attached, to track their mood during the day. Monitoring your mood can reveal many things, including when work pressure means you should take a break, when your happiest and most productive time of the day is, and when too many of a certain type of emoji might mean its time to seek help from an outside source. There are also meditation apps like Headspace, which work for some students. Both apps require at least a little time commitment in order to be useful. However, that’s not an issue. Mental health should be a priority, not an afterthought, and it would be wise to devote at least a portion of every day to help maintaining and repairing it.

Don't feel you need to absorb a label to help define yourself or your struggles. This is especially true in Hong Kong where, lets face it, many are less willing to discuss mental health issues or be supportive of them. The argument that mental health labels are detrimental is gaining strength in psychological and neurological research. What might be a better idea, is to show a little compassion, both to yourself and to others that might be struggling. There is no such thing as normal, the human mind is too complex and beautiful for that. We know more about the stars and the ocean floor than we do about what lives within our skulls, so it might be best not to heavily pathologise what we are yet to understand. Write journals, read widely, walk daily, exercise gently, talk to friends and family, embrace community but above all remember, as Ernest Hemmingway said, that we are all broken, but that’s how the light gets in.


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