Checking in on mental health for students and young people during exams

With many high school students returning to school for a short period before their exams there will be heightened stress and anxiety among students, parents and teachers across the country. Pasifika Futures’ (PFL) Ngalu Fānifo mental health segment on 531 P.I. explored this as well as a talanoa round depression.

Dr Foliaki acknowledges the challenges of these announcements and how it could potentially affect a young person’s mental health and well-being.

“About 70% of young Pacific people really enjoy school. Majority of Pacific kids, they’re not going to experience too much in the way of stress and anxiety and the return to school. Often it reduces stress and anxiety.

Some of them are scared about catching the virus off teachers and other school mates. There are expectations around exams, their whole lives are ahead of them and some want to do well, because they’ve got careers they want to build.

If those young people experience a certain amount of distress, their coping strategies get overwhelmed and they can suffer from depression.”

Dr Foliaki explains that depression is beyond just having a bad day and is a deeper form of stress that should be taken seriously.

“Depression is the notion that you wake up and your day isn’t going to get any better. People often feel like their depression is never going to lift and it has an impact on important things like your sleep, your appetite and your energy levels.

The thought that life isn’t worth living starts to creep into a person’s thinking and is the type of thinking that starts to be present on a day-to-day basis.”

Dr Foliaki further explains that for a young person in particular, depression can be triggered by relationship breakdowns.

“The biggest triggers are relationship breakdowns, whether it’s a first love experience or a breakdown within our family units. Human beings are relational and when our relationships break down, it causes us enormous distress.

If you’re feeling vulnerable at the time because you’re suffering from depression, it only takes something small like an exam result not going your way that can lead to really tragic consequences.”

Dr Foliaki says depression can lead to feelings of low self-esteem and encourages people to seek professional help.

“Their sense of self-worth is down, they start to feel guilty in an excessive way about their own personal failings and they start to feel like a burden to others. When it gets to that point I really do recommend getting some professional help.

Research shows that Pacific Island families are very hesitant to seek professional help. My message to our community is that if they were to seek help, start with your GP and they will know how to navigate the system for you.”

See full interview here. The Ngalu Fānifo segment airs every Wednesday at 12:40pm on 531’s Pacific Days show with Ma’a Brian Sagala. You can listen in on the radio or livestream on the 531 Facebook page.

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Date: Saturday 06 November 2021