Should Indian schools emphasise more on mental health awareness?
Mental health issues among students
Health organisations such as WHO and the National Alliance of Mental Illness have conducted various studies which have proved that about 20% or one in five students suffer from some form of mental illness. Furthermore, the research concluded suicide as a leading cause of death in children and young adults upto the age of 25. Mental health has not yet been addressed as it should in schools and universities in India, but these statistics indicate the need for such topics to be taken up in educational institutes.
Importance of mental health
Today’s world is characterised by intense pressure from all aspects of life. Factors like increasing use of social media, global exposure at a young age, increased competition in academic spheres, alienation and constant social comparison has led to increased mental health issues among young students at an unprecedented level. Most schools in our country focus on health only on a physical level – by laying emphasis on the importance of good nutrition and exercise. However, they often completely ignore mental and emotional health as vital parts of wellness.
Neglecting children’s mental health has serious repercussions that have been well documented. Mental health issues can disrupt every aspect of a child’s life and affect their important processes like learning, growth and social adjustment. Furthermore, if these issues are ignored for a prolonged period, they can increase in severity and may lead to serious behavioural issues like self-harm and at times, even suicide.
According to research, 70% of mental health problems that appear in young children can be addressed and successfully resolved through prompt action and early intervention. It has been observed that a maximum number of individuals only get help for their mental health problems in their adulthood, despite most of these issues showing signs by teen-age. This discrepancy between the occurrence of such issues and their resolution can be rectified through schools, with the help of proper infrastructure and support.
Promotion of mental health in schools
The first step towards solving any mental health issue is the identification of the signs in students. Sudden and drastic changes in personality or behaviour, sudden lack of energy or motivation, noticeable change in their physical appearance, isolation and withdrawal from social situations, etc. are some obvious signs that cannot be ignored. If teachers, educators and administrators are trained to identify these symptoms of mental health issues, then thousands of students can be saved from suffering through this struggle.
However, simply imparting training to teachers to spot symptoms of mental health issues is not enough. An open, supportive, stigma-free learning environment is equally necessary for proper addressal of mental health problems. Schools and administrators need to create an environment that allows students to speak up about their issues and seek the help they need to get better. Such a supportive atmosphere not only includes open minded teachers and peers, but also regular classroom discussions and awareness seminars as well as availability of accredited school counsellors or psychologists, specialising in child psychology.
Another important factor in combating mental health issues in schools is the inculcation of important values like self-worth, tolerance, empathy, self-love, and healthy expression in students from a young age. Students must be educated about spotting mental health issues in themselves as well as their peers. They should be equipped with the mental strength needed to seek help. Schools encouraging them to stay in tune with their feelings, expressing their emotions through healthy channels and allowing themselves to rise above their pressures, can help students tackle such issues greatly.
5 easy methods to promote mental health in schools
Encourage healthy outlets for negative emotions through meditation, art, music, writing, dancing and other such forms.
Promote strict school policies against bullying and discrimination to support students’ mental well being.
Provide fun, relaxation areas for students, where they can destress throughout the day or seek peace during stressful times.
Provide students with proper information, websites and helplines for organisations that work towards bettering mental health.
How does Vidyanchal School tackle mental health?
At Vidyanchal High School, we believe that mental health is a crucial aspect that governs a child’s growth and development. We aim to educate our students as well as our staff to better tackle the rising mental health problems in young students and provide them with the support and infrastructure they require to adopt a holistic approach to their health and become their best selves.