World Mental Health Day is celebrated on 10 October. This day is intended to raise
awareness and highlight the importance of good mental health, a factor as important as physical health, although it is often not given the credit it deserves.
Today we discuss the current situation in the mental health field and its importance, both for the general population and the academic publishing sector.
While mental health has always been an important factor in a person's development, it was not until the advent of the pandemic that the need for mental health care became more prominent. The shortcomings of the system in psychiatric and psychological care have also come to light. What has changed in this time?
The impact of having to stay at home has meant confronting parts of ourselves and discovering the people we live with, leading also to disorders such as anxiety and depression that have increased compared to before the pandemic (the frequency of these disorders is estimated to have risen by 25%).
Isolation and uncertainty are two key factors that have affected in many respects and that even today, now that the situation has normalized, have left their mark. These after-effects have come in the form of increased concern for mental care and a strong disagreement with the current functioning of mental care. Shortages of care, disinterest, margins too wide to sustain therapy, and delayed access to treatment are just the tip of the iceberg. The pandemic has made us realize how neglected mental health is and how important it is.
In the Academic Field
The whole issue of mental health is also reflected in the scientific community. Symptoms of depression and anxiety are much more pronounced than in the general population. The occurrence of these symptoms can have a negative impact on the performance or quality of publications. But what factors can influence this?
Important: emphasize that everyone is different and that what may be a source of anxiety or stress for one person may not necessarily be for another.
One of the factors that may play a role is the frenetic pace demanded by the world of academic research. The need to publish as fast as possible in order to gain recognition means that there is little time left to worry about the consequences of being under so much stress and pressure on a continuous basis.
Hypercompetitiveness also plays a role. Academia is a very competitive arena between different authors, who have to be frequently fighting each other to make their research more prominent, receive more impact, and therefore also receive more recognition and funding.
Having to deal with this on a daily basis takes consequences on researchers, not only because of the anxiety that comes with having to keep up with this pace but also because of the emotional consequences of knowing (often) that your work could be of much better quality if all this pressure was not there.
You can find out more about mental health in the academic publication in our post: https://blog.orvium.io/mental-health-scientific-publishing/
What Can Be Done
In order to improve the current mental health conditions, the following can be addressed:
- A better understanding of the importance we give to mental health. Mental
health is often relegated to second place behind physical health. However, the
complete well-being of an individual is a combination of a good development of
both. Therefore, raising awareness of the importance of not neglecting mental
health and its important role in society can promote better policy action and
eliminate many of the biases that surround mental health.
- Develop a culture of mental health in different settings, such as at home, at work, or in schools. Encourage collaboration to better understand what measures can be taken in these settings.
- Improving conditions for accessing quality mental health care. The pandemic has highlighted that accessing a mental health service is not easy and that the
barriers to accessing it only worsen the situation.
Transforming the current situation in the academic world is a long process. That is why it is up to us to do everything we can to create a better environment and thus try to reduce the incidence of mental disorders as much as possible.
One of the ways is, within the publication and review process, to try to be more empathetic and constructive with criticism. It is possible to review work that others have done without being disrespectful of what they have done (a practice that is more common than it seems) and to bring real value to the reviews. This helps to reduce stress and pressure on the author themselves, as they really feel that he/she is receiving real help with the research.
You can find out more about what peer review is and improve the peer review situation in the following post: https://blog.orvium.io/peer-review-week-2022-integrity/ and find out more about how authors and reviewers feel in the following link: https://blog.orvium.io/balance-between-authors-and-reviewers/