To highlight the significance of mental health in youth and to observe this year’s mental health day, the Commission of Science and Technology for Sustainable Development in the South (COMSATS) and its Centre of Excellence, COMSATS University Islamabad (CUI) jointly organized a Workshop on “Engaging University Faculty for Mental Health Wellbeing of Youth” at the Islamabad Campus of the later. On behalf of the two organizations, COMSATS Telehealth Desk and Departments of Psychology and Health Informatics Department at CUI arranged the hybrid workshop. The event is also in the backdrop of efforts to achieve Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) – 3 and 4 regarding quality education through healthy minds and bodies.
Federal Secretary to Ministry of Science and Technology, Dr. Akhtar Nazir, who is also the incumbent Executive Director COMSATS, lauded this initiative by COMSATS Secretariat Telehealth Desk and CUI.
“Mental health is one of the most underserved fields of health sciences in developing world. Debates and deliberations about it are crucial in view of the far-reaching implications of mental health that affect society through physical health, their social, economic and civic impact”, opined Dr. Akhtar Nazir.
In the light of key global stats on mental health in youth that he found alarming, Dr. Nazir considered it important to give this field of medical science due importance for ensuring healthier societies.
While speaking at the closing ceremony, Prof. Dr. Tabassum Afzal, Rector COMSATS University Islamabad (CUI), considered the subject event very timely owing to increasing stress and other mental health related issues since the advent of COVID-19. Considering cultural and societal norms an important factor in dealing with mental illnesses, Prof. Afzal cited examples of stress management from the early Islamic history and life of Prophet Muhammad (SAW). He urged the faculty to take initiatives for the wellbeing of youth’s mental health. He also acknowledged the long-standing COMSATS – CUI relationship and suggesting furthering of cooperation between the two organizations.
Earlier, the technical sessions were opened by the Registrar CUI, Dr. Sajjad A. Madani, who highlighted a number of challenges arising for youth from the information age. He especially highlighted the mental wellbeing challenges transpiring from the social media that have deep social and psychological impact. He hoped that the current event will help highlight relevant challenges.
During the technical session of the workshop, experts in the field of Psychology provided comprehensive insights to the participants on importance of mental health, prevailing issues in college and university students, the red flags and early signs of these disorders and tips to equip the teachers for tackling these issues.
Dr. Aisha Kashif, Counselor, Psychologist, United Nations Organization, Islamabad gave a general overview on the common and complex Psychological problems that exist within the youth and university students and their outcomes. She highlighted the cascade effects of the stress and other emotional baggage people in general carry. She stressed upon the faculty members to provide such students with emotional first aid, identify potential risk and provide referrals.
Causes of stress in university students and it stress leading to distress were discussed by Dr. Noreen Akhter, Deputy Director, NUST. Dr. Noreen emphasized on the early identification of the signs of mental illness like behavioral change, eating disorders or unexplained physical injuries etc. Dr. Saima Kalsoom, Psychologist at National Defence University stressed upon the need for training the faculty to improve psychological literacy to better equip them in risk identification. She encouraged the participants to assess and listen to their students non-judgmentally and provide them encouragement to talk about their issues and seek professional help when needed.
Participants of the workshop appreciated the efforts of COMSATS and CUI to create awareness and educate the university faculty about the importance of mental well-being of students that would lead to healthy environment of the institution through healthy mind.