“Prevention is better than cure” applies all of the time. (I’m not aware of any situations where this isn’t the case).
For example, when it comes to your teeth, you’re far better off looking after your teeth in the first place, treating them well, brushing them consistently, rather than having to fix the problems once they arise. Don’t get me wrong, the problems can be fixed, but your tooth will never be the same again once it has, say, developed a cavity. That cavity has to be filled, and the stuff with which it is filled isn’t tooth.
It’s the same case when it comes to mental health. First of all, we know about the issues with diagnosing mental health issues in the first place, with matters of the mind not being visible like, say, a broken bone. However, rather than take anti-depressants and other drugs in order to “fix” these issues once they arise, why don’t we just try to prevent in the first place, rather than cure? (And, indeed, even when we are trying to cure – make sure that we exhaust all other possibilities and avoid using these “band-aid” drugs in the first place – that’s what they are, a band-aid just to temporarily stem the bleeding. I know they have helped those suffering with mental health issues, but that doesn’t detract from the fact that they are merely temporarily stemming the flow, and not eradicating the problem at its root).
For example, take schools. Mental health issues are on the rise in youths, from young children through to late teens. Given the ever-increasing and ridiculous curriculum demands, added exam stress, added pressure, added expectations in the world we live in for all sorts of reasons, it is no surprise that these issues are on the rise.
So, several sensible things could be done here, for example*:
– Reduce the curriculum requirements; a lot of the time, the stuff that has to be learnt, and then regurgitated for the exams, is quite meaningless; I estimate I am using a tiny percentage of everything that I “learned” between the ages of 18 (and I was one of the studious ones, who actually enjoyed learning!)
– Encourage an art/drama/music/similar subject – it’s good for the mind, and it helps develop the holistic student
– Incorporate mindfulness, other forms of meditation, or simply just being “still” for a few minutes each day
– Go outside more! Experience nature
– Exercise, or do something active
– Eat better
– Sleep better
– Be part of a community, for social support and for the feeling that you are part of something beyond yourself
– Use your strengths, and focus on them, rather than your weaknesses
– Work on / learn / read something – entirely of your own volition
– And the list goes on…
In the youth world, of course cases will always vary dependent upon individual circumstances. However, the big root cause I see is curriculum and exam stress – prevalent everywhere and, I would argue, especially so in some of “top” state grammar and private schools, where expectations are particularly high and the environment feels hyper-competitive.
Until the root changes, I suspect we will always have the same issues, and mental health cases will continue to rise. Let us not forget that mental health is a spectrum. Let’s say everyone is somewhere on a scale between 1-100; even if we put aside those cases where mental health issues have been diagnosed (say, those who have a score between 1 and 30, let’s not forget the huge numbers who are a 40, or a 50, or even a 60 or a 70, who are still stressed out some (or a lot!) of the time and experiencing difficulties, and so can still move up the scale. None of us are a 100, and so mental wellbeing can always be improved, always cultivated.
Implementing practices like some of the ones above can drastically improve mental wellbeing, and help to control/negate the array of difficulties young people are now faced with each day.
*Interestingly – many of these practices are being researched and investigated in the field of Positive Psychology, and so there is now scientific evidence showing that these methods actually work!