Health is a precious asset. The World Health Organization identifies health as a state of total physical, mental, and social well-being, rather than simply the absence of disease. It also claims that there can be no true physical health without mental health. A person with good mental health is aware of their abilities, can cope with life’s normal stresses, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to contribute to his or her community. However, in the present scenario, the worldly sprawled pandemic caused by SARS-CoV-2 has left a greater impact on individuals’ mental and emotional health. The deadly outbreak has wreaked unprecedented havoc on millions of lives and continues to raise a serious concern about the global burden of mental illness among students. The outbreak has thrown students’ lives into disarray across the country, India. As a result of the disaster, nearly 300 million students have been propelled to stay at home with complete or partial separation from school. During this hardship, especially for those with a home-deficit support system and those from marginalized sections of the society, it becomes difficult to catch up on their studies at home that raise another risk factor for their mental illness. Besides, the fear of being infected, academic workload, future uncertainty, online bullying, and a poor home-school online partnership—all cause a sudden surge in mental illness among school-going adolescents.

Amidst the ongoing pandemic, many learners have become extremely fragile to various health-risk behaviors, such as drug abuse, alcoholic behaviors etc. Also, they develop a sense of negative attitude towards life and become victims of their untoward actions, sometimes which lead to suicidal ideation. This gloomy state of students negatively affects them to function at cognitive, affective, and behavioral levels and impairs their physical and mental well-being, resulting in a state of poor mental health, academic stress, and behavioral adjustment issues. In this context, psychiatrists all over the world have emphasized the importance of psychological capital (PsyCap), including hope, self-efficacy, and optimism in building resilience among students in the face of pandemic. They urge academic stakeholders to foster PsyCap among students to cope with such a crisis.

Psychological capital is quite closely linked to the whole idea of resilience and managing adversity. It is the positive and developmental state of an individual characterized by psychological constructs, i.e., hope, self-efficacy, optimism, and resilience. These constructs are just as much important to develop as economic capital, social capital, and family capital. Who I am (PsyCap) is every bit as important as what I have (economic capital), what I know (human capital), who I know (social capital), what value and dignity I hold (family capital). PsyCap has the potentiality for a healthy personal growth. It impacts individuals’ interest, work engagement, creative performance, happiness, and well-being. It also enables students to cope with stress and health-risk behaviors, and reduce study-related hazards.

At present, the pandemic has crippled students, making many of them believe that their lives have no meaning. Hope, a psychological resource, is the belief in one’s ability to figure out how to achieve specific objectives. It is also a positive motivational state of mind, that is based on an interactively derived sense of success via an agency (goal-directed energy) and pathways thoughts (planning to meet goals). During this crisis, inculcating hope will help learners in setting their minimal targets and in increasing motivation level to accomplish them on day-to-day basis. It is evident that individuals who are optimistic and have a positive mental state of motivation view obstacles as challenges and try to find ways to overcome them in order to achieve their goals. Furthermore, individuals with a high level of hope have also revealed a high level of academic performance, a low level of negative mental health and a high level of well-being.

Self-efficacy is another psychological resource, extends helping hand to build positivity towards oneself. It is the optimistic belief of individuals in the capabilities to produce the desired outcome. It determines how students think, feel, and motivate themselves as well as how they act and perform in order to complete a task. It produces diverse positive effects through different cognitive, motivational, and affective processes. Individuals with a positive sense of efficacy belief are more likely to achieve their goals and feel good about themselves, according to research. Besides, it is also found that individuals who have a high level of perceived self-efficacy have a high level of intrinsic interest, study motivation, engagement in activities, better work performance and mental wellness, and a lower level of negative mental health (stress, anxiety, emotional instability, and depression) as well as better coping behaviors.

Optimism is a mainstream construct in positive human psychology. It is a mental state in which one has a positive outlook on events that will occur in the future. It is individuals’ generalized positive outlook on future. It is reflected in the hope that the outcome of certain goal-directed behavior and efforts will be positive, favorable, and desirable. So, it is critical to foster optimistic beliefs in students during the current crisis. Students with optimistic beliefs expect good and desirable outcomes for their goal-directed behavior and they experience a state of positive feeling and happiness; whereas students with pessimistic beliefs have a dispositional tendency to expect bad outcomes and experience a state of negative feelings, such as stress, anxiety, emotional instability, dissatisfaction, and exhibit an exhausting level of dedication. Optimistic beliefs help students to take problems, unfortunate events, and setbacks as temporary as well as specific, and specify these as related to external; while pessimistic beliefs encourage them to take problems, unfortunate events and setbacks as permanent as well as pervasive, and specify these as related to internal or personal. Furthermore, students with optimistic beliefs show a high level of confidence and persuasive behavior with emotional maturity, while pessimists are doubtful and hesitant and show emotional instability.

Fourthly, resilience is a dynamic psychosocial resource that students are expected to acquire during the pandemic. It helps students to remain well and thrive in face of adversity. It is the determination, persistence, and psychological strength of individuals to handle and bounce back from a setback, misfortune, and adversity. Herewith, it is evinced that mental toughness and resilience as well as strengthened willpower help students in overcoming adversity and recuperate from the states of negative mental health, such as stress, anxiety, emotional instability, and depression on one hand and boosting well-being, work satisfaction, deep engagement, personal health and happiness on the flip side.

Thus, developing psychological capital is critical for school-aged adolescents. Hope, optimistic thinking, self-efficacy, and resilience are the core PsyCap resources that enable students to deal with setbacks and risks in the face of this dire situation. Also, they help students engage in their studies and perform well, and empower them to cope up with varied fragile environs.

Nawaz Sarif is a Ph.D. scholar and a UGC fellow at the School of Education, North-Eastern Hill University (NEHU), Shillong, India. He has completed his master’s degree at Banaras Hindu University (BHU), Varanasi, India. Presently, he works on ‘the development of psychological capital amongst students’. Email: nawazsarif@nehu.ac.in


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