Youth Mental Health & Managing Exam Stress

Ministry of Health Vanuatu

August 2019 Mental Health Newsletter

The 12th August 2019 is International Youth Day.

In October 2018, Vanuatu’s Mental Health Team travelled to Epi to visit patients and discuss mental health treatment with the nurses at Vaemali Health Centre. They also had the opportunity to talk to some of the high school students at Epi High School about Adolescent Mental Health.

Following this talk, a number of the students said that they were feeling very stressed about their exams coming up. They wanted to know how to best prepare for their exams and cope with the stress that they were feeling.

Top tips to best prepare for exams, as determined by the Hunimed Web Team:

  1. Give yourself enough time to study
  2. Make a realistic study schedule
  3. Try not to leave anything for the last minute
  4. Make sure your study space is organized
  5. Have a comfortable chair and with enough space and light to study in
  6. Remove all other distractions apart from the task you are working on when studying
  7. Use flow charts, diagrams, and other visual aids to make it easier to revise the material you have learnt
  8. Practice on old exams if they are available
  9. Explain what you know to others, and why you have answered a question on a certain way
  10. Organise study sessions with friends who are learning the same things
  11. Take regular breaks. The pomodoro technique recommends 25 minutes of concentrated study followed by a five-minute break. 50 minutes of study followed by a 10-minute break can work well too
  12. Do not try to study for more than 8 hours a day, including class time. Any more than this and new information won’t be learned as well
  13. Still spend time socialising with friends and family or exercising when you are not studying to give your mind a rest and look after your mental health
  14. Snack on healthy food that your brain benefits from, including natural, fresh, and vitamin rich foods. Fruits, vegetables, and nuts and seeds are especially helpful. Avoid consuming too much sugar, processed foods and caffeine
  15. Plan the day of your exam, including the time you want to wake up so that you can get enough sleep the night before, bathe, eat a nutritious breakfast and get to the exam without rushing and increasing your stress
  16. Drink plenty of water while studying and have a bottle with you during the exam too if that is allowed.

Here are the top 10 tips for looking after your mental health, according to The Mental Health Foundation:

  1. Talk about your feelings (with people who are likely to listen and not judge)
  2. Exercise regularly (30 mins a day, 5 days a week)
  3. Eat well (lots of vegetables and minimal processed food or foods high in sugar, salt and saturated fats)
  4. Drink sensibly (lots of water is best, but a little bit of coconut water and vegetable juice is good too)
  5. Keep in touch with loved ones
  6. Ask for help when you need it or could use it
  7. Take a break (rest and play and socializing and getting outside into nature is great)
  8. Do something you’re good at (accomplishment and achievements or mastery over something helps us to feel good)
  9. Accept who you are (especially the things you cannot change about yourself)
  10. Care for others (help at home, in the community, with strangers. Essentially, try to be kind to others and appreciative of nice things they do for you)

Adolescence has always been a time full of change:

  • Puberty,
  • Hormonal and bodily changes,
  • New schools or universities,
  • New friendship groups,
  • Starting a new job,
  • Beginning to date, or
  • Maybe even moving out of the family home.

The rapid rate of technological growth is complicating this process for most adolescents by accelerating the amount of change and new experiences that they are exposed to.

With this new technology, we now have more ways to stay in touch, but this is not always a good thing:

  • Bullying and social exclusion can be perpetuated 24 hours a day, resulting in a sense of no escape for those being targeted.
  • Due to the lack of regulation and adolescents being more technologically knowledgeable than their parents, most adolescents have access to much adult-only information at the swipe of a finger and click of a button.
  • A lot of the data collected on the internet is stored forever, meaning that “a little bit of fun” or one small mistake can have severe consequences for the future of that individual.

Critical facts about adolescent mental health from the World Health Organisation:

  • One-in-six people in the world are between 10 and 19 years of age.
  • Mental health conditions account for 16% of the global burden of disease in people aged 10-19 years.
  • Half of all mental illness begins by the age of 14.
  • Most cases of mental illness go undetected and untreated.
  • Depression is the third leading cause of illness and disability among adolescents. At its worst, depression can lead to suicide.
  • Suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15 to 29-year-olds worldwide, following only road accidents.
  • Risky behaviours, including substance abuse, unhealthy eating or sleeping patterns, interpersonal violence, dangerous driving and unsafe sex often begin during adolescence.
  • Exposure to poverty, disaster, abuse or violence can make adolescents more vulnerable to mental health problems.

As seen above, suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death for adolescents and 2nd leading cause of death among 15-29-year-olds. The important takeaway message is that many of these deaths can be prevented, through better awareness, community support, and specialist services to assist those in need.

Prevention of mental health difficulties begins with a better understanding of what the main issues are and what you can do about them.

By prioritising adolescent mental health, it will not only help the individuals being supported, but it will also help the economy and community at large, both now and into the future.

It t is important for adolescents to know that confidential help is available, and that things can get better if they are struggling with too much stress or other mental health problems such as Depression, Anxiety, Insomnia, Substance Abuse, or Relationship difficulties at home or at school.

If you are in Vanuatu and would like more information, advice or support, please contact:

Mind Care Clinic

Psychiatry Department



VOIP: 1081

Namalinuan Clinic



Mental Health Clinic



Mental Health Clinic



Mental Health Clinic



D.A. MoH Port Vila, January 2019

Published by Dr Damon Ashworth

I am a Clinical Psychologist. I completed a Doctoral degree in Clinical Psychology at Monash University and a Bachelor of Behavioural Sciences and a Bachelor of Psychological Sciences with Honours at La Trobe University. I am passionate about the field of Psychology, and apply the latest empirical findings to best help individuals meet their psychological and emotional needs.

11 thoughts on “Youth Mental Health & Managing Exam Stress

  1. What a wonderful article Dr. Damon Ashworth. Such valuable and helpful information and advice for the young and old alike. Thank you so much for writing this article. I am also learning so much from your site. “You are a Blessing to the whole world”!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Good post! I used to have stress when I was in high school and college because of my exams. In 2015, I checked myself into therapy for depression and anxiety. With help and time my depression and anxiety did get better.

    Liked by 1 person

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