New Delhi: The life of a student is stressful, coupled with the ongoing pandemic, the situation has worsened further with 1 in 7 children at risk of mental issues because of the pandemic-induced restrictions. Adolescence is an important time in the lives of children as it serves as the formative time to develop and maintain emotional and social habits.
However, with nationwide lockdowns, restrictions on social interactions and closure of schools, students are missing out on the crucial balance between play and studies. As the pandemic continues to change our lives in different ways, it has become more important than ever for educators and educational institutions to effectively deal with students' mental health issues. Dr. Prakriti Poddar, Managing Trustee, Poddar Foundation shares some of the ways schools or educational institutions can promote mental health awareness:
Why is mental health education important in schools?
The misconceptions and stigma surrounding mental health have to start from schools. A school is a place where children begin friendships and hone their sense of self-worth. The environment of a school has a deep impact on a child's emotional welfare. As schools gradually start to re-open after the pandemic, now more than ever it has become vital to spread awareness of mental wellbeing and health.
With effective mental health policies in place, schools can encourage conversations around mental health, spot children who are in need and support them through their tough times. Since educators spend a significant amount of time with children, they can easily spot any behavioural changes like anxiety, low mood, outbursts, anger and low motivation that might indicate the start of a mental health disorder.
How mental health can be promoted in education spaces
Mental health education for children is especially important if awareness needs to be spread about the subject. Without proper mental health education, children grow up believing the long-held beliefs of society that eventually perpetuates a vicious cycle of stigmatized attitudes towards mental health. To avoid the same, it is essential that teachers provide students with the resources, opportunities and support they need.
Encourage Positive Self-Esteem e Schools must provide students with the skills and tools required to resolve inevitable setbacks and conflicts they'll face. Schools need to boost the self-confidence of children by supporting assertiveness, good decision making, self-determination and perseverance.
Promote Healthy Eating and Good Physical Health e Educators should also teach children how physical and mental health go hand-in-hand. Apart from lessons on physical health education, schools should also conduct workshops on physical exercise, healthy eating and managing stress to strengthen a positive body-mind relationship.
Educate Teachers, Students and Parents on Signs and Symptoms e A teacher who is well aware of the basics of mental health will be better equipped to deal with students who are facing mental health problems. Thus, it is important that every member of the school community including the parents and students are given some basic mental health training to become aware of mental health issues and how they are being supported within the school. Activities can be arranged within the school on a weekly basis to discuss a range of well-being topics.
Support an Open Door Policy e By supporting an open door policy, schools can encourage students to come up and speak about any mental health issues they're facing. No matter whether the teachers are well-trained in mental health problems, having an open willingness to listen to a child's problem can go a long way in making sure that the child never feels neglected and always has help available in hand. Every school must have a designated esafe space' where students can go and talk freely about their issues.
Mental health issues in students require a coordinated effort and a multilevel approach from schools and parents. Early detection and intervention happen to be crucial factors in the goal towards reaching students before such conditions manifest into more serious issues.