The study of mental health in Mexico over the past decade has resulted in a clear picture of problematic rates and trends. One approach being used by many countries in recent years to assess the impact of mental health problems on its citizens is through the study of mental wellbeing. Mental wellbeing differs from mental health in that it looks at more than just the absence of illness, and broadens the focus to include psychological functioning and experience. For centuries, the general approach to mental health has been focused on deficits and weaknesses, which has led to the current system of deficits-based diagnosis, assessment, and treatment perspective. The purpose of this study was to use a positively-worded strength-based approach measure (The Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale) to examining the connection between mental wellbeing and health-related quality of life among youth in rural Mexico.
We worked closely with two school psychologists from a middle school in a rural town of Central Mexico to recruit youth to participate in a two-pronged study involving a short survey and a focus group about health. All youth in the school were eligible for recruitment and were recruited by the psychologists. School psychologists spoke with parents and youth to answer questions about the risks and benefits of study participation and to discuss confidentiality. Of the 116 potential student participants, four chose not to participate in either the demographic survey or the focus groups. These students dropped out of school during the recruitment process, which was reported as not uncommon among students in the area. Of the 112 students, 98 also participated in a focus group (61 males and 37 females).
Descriptive statistics show that 22.52% of participants fell within the “at-risk” category on the Pediatric Quality of Life (PedsQL) scale, with 19.82% at-risk on the physical subscale and 24.32% at-risk on the psychosocial subscale. The primary independent variable, mental wellbeing, was a statistically significant predictor for scores on the physical subscale of the PedsQL (b=0.39, p < .05), but not for the full scale or psychosocial subscale.
Conclusions and Implications:
Aligned with the profession’s global ethical principles, study of mental well-being by social workers should focus on client strengths. With more than one-third of the Mexican population projected to struggle with a mental disorder at some point during their lifetime, the manner in which these individuals are assessed and assisted by social workers and other helping professionals is vital to their long-term well-being. Our findings suggest that the mental wellbeing is related to quality of life, a popular indicator of holistic health and an important construct for assisting youth achieve health and balance in their physical, social, and emotional lives. By incorporating positively worded strengths-based measures in social work practice such as the WEMWBS, helping professionals in Mexico can help circumvent much of the stigma and negativity surrounding mental health and help clients receive assistance in an empowering manner.