As a global society, we have recently come a long way in bettering the conversation around mental health. From prominent figures opening up publicly about their struggles with mental illness to the rise of communities on social media focused on self-care and mutual support, mental health has been one of the loudest discussions throughout the pandemic.
Of course, this increased awareness has also coincided with increased mental distress, and there is still work to be done. At CAS Trips, we have been especially aware of the many challenges the COVID-19 pandemic has presented to students, educators, and parents. Adolescents are already coping with many changes that can impact mental health, and they have been especially vulnerable to the disruptions wrought by the pandemic. Only now are we starting to learn about the broad impacts on students due to schools being closed, physically distancing guidelines and isolation, and other unexpected changes to their lives.
As an organization, we always look towards education for solutions. We believe that a big part of our responsibility is to give young people the tools and support they need to recognize the signs of mental health issues, the space to discuss and ask questions, and, if necessary, direct access to the resources required to seek help. To further the availability of all these essential components, we have built our upcoming fall 2021 Virtual CAS Conference around the topic of mental health and wellbeing.
The global context
As these key facts from the World Health Organization illustrate, addressing adolescent mental health is critical for the wellbeing of young people right now and future prosperity for everyone:
- Mental health conditions account for 16% of the global burden of disease and injury in people aged 10-19 years.
- Half of all mental health conditions start by 14 years of age, but most cases are undetected and untreated.
- Globally, depression is one of the leading causes of illness and disability among adolescents.
- Suicide is the fourth leading cause of death in 15-19-year-olds.
- The consequences of not addressing adolescent mental health conditions extend to adulthood, impairing both physical and mental health and limiting opportunities to lead fulfilling lives as adults.
The students have spoken
These statistics are compelling in and of themselves, but it is also important to note that young people are eager to engage with mental health and create a more positive and open environment for themselves and their peers. When the COVID-19 pandemic forced the mass closure of schools, every young person simultaneously experienced a change they were not prepared for. Consequently, rather than students’ anxieties being distributed over the school year, they all developed simultaneously. They have been working hard to overcome these obstacles and are looking for opportunities to share, support, and learn from one another. We asked our students, what the next Virtual CAS Conference should be about. There was a clear consensus, with 43% of the students questioned voting that mental health was the most pressing subject at the moment.
What will the conference provide?
By including education on mental health and information on how and where to access help, schools can contribute to a better future for their students, staff, and the surrounding community. Our conference has been developed to help bring mental health into the curriculum in a thoughtful and accessible way.
The format will inspire collaboration between up to 400 students from around the world. The weekend event will also feature keynote speakers from leading global organizations, such as the United Nations, all geared towards addressing mental health and wellbeing.
In addition to providing a platform to compare personal insights, cultural perspectives, and ideas for action, the conference will challenge small teams of students to collaborate in a Charity Hackathon format to develop a long-term solution-focused CAS Project in response to a mental health charity’s urgent, authentic need.
As education professionals, we strive to better facilitate discussions of mental health amongst young people and bring mental health education and resources into schools and spaces of learning. We understand that introducing these topics at a young age can significantly impact students’ current and future mental health and contribute to eliminating stigma and fostering resiliency through awareness. You can learn more about programming and how to get involved here.
Photo credits: Emily Underworld via Unsplash.com.