OPINION: Need for Mental Health Awareness at schools

OPINION: Need for Mental Health Awareness at schools

Imagine a school having ultra-modern architecture, plush interiors, smart classrooms, world-class amenities, and highly trained faculties for the kids of wealthy and influential families taking admission. Opposite it is a municipality school that barely manages the old and tattered building, rusted, broken furniture, and dirty, awfully smelled washrooms with no water supply. Children from rural and poor backgrounds get admission over here.

Surprisingly when you observe and interact with students of both the schools, you can easily make out that the children feel bored, suffocated, and under a lot of stress. Their parents find their kids unhappy, dull, and looking for excuses to miss their school despite paying under their nose, whereas the children from the other school are carefree, relaxed, and excited to come to school daily. They look forward to meeting their classmates as well as teachers.  

What do you think the reason could be for their happiness?

You almost guessed it right. The students’ sound mental health is entirely missing among the students belonging to the famous and prominent school. 

It is clear from the above example that Mental health is essential at every stage of life, from childhood to adulthood. It includes their emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It also explains how they think, feels, and act in different situations. How they relate to others and make choices.

If someone experiences mental health problems, their thought process, mood, and behavior will be affected at any point in life. Many factors contribute to cognitive issues, including biological factors (genes or brain chemistry), life experiences (trauma or domestic violence), and family history of mental health problems.

Let us talk about Mental Health in detail in the context of school.

Role of schools 

Early signs of Mental illness start manifesting around 15-17 years of age; therefore, it is more important to involve schools in identifying the cases early. The whole purpose of involving schools is to diagnose the early symptoms and act as a bridge to seek and provide professional help. These institutes also help promote social harmony, resilience-building (the ability to cope with adverse events and adversities), and character building.

 Schools, at all costs, must ensure an atmosphere of safety and comfort for sound health. Children spend most of their childhood in school when maximum development occurs. It should not be confused with no symptoms or suffering from mental illness. In fact, a person enjoys a state of well-being if he meets the learning potential, copes well with ordinary stresses, and is connected to the people around him.

In most cases, mental illness begins at an early age, but unfortunately, people seek help only after reaching adulthood. If the schools are committed to the process, we can halt illness progression through early intervention. A multi-disciplinary team is required for effective delivery, which generally comprises all stakeholders: leaders, teachers, staff, parents, and school counselors.

 Schools should brief students about mental health more actively with emphasis on identifying their emotions and an open-door policy where the children are heard patiently in case they approach any staff member. A safe and private space should be specified on the premises where the children can freely discuss their fears and insecurities with a school counselor/student volunteer. These assigned experts must undergo training from recognized institutions. They should know when to raise the matter for referring professional help. Even the parents need to be trained to handle their kids undergoing emotional turmoil.

Strict anti-bullying policies must be in place to provide a safe haven in the school. Children need to know that talking about mental illness is still considered taboo. To make them aware of their mental strength, organizing specific workshops will help them understand the subject better.

Introducing mindfulness training

To deal with daily challenges and to become aware of their surroundings. A confident child is more self-aware and equipped to deal with situations positively. Yoga and breathing exercises are helpful as they help increase the focus and confidence of students.

Promote positive self-esteem by supporting sound decision-making, assertiveness, and confidence.

Post covid, schools have to focus more on social interactions to remove online learning fatigue. Students should be encouraged to have healthy conversations with peers during break times. There should be various co-curricular and club activities for them to participate in.

A strong sense of community among all students must be encouraged to discuss the uniqueness of each classmate, teacher, and staff member. They should be made aware of the importance and role of each member in forming a community together. Street plays, folk dances, and competitions will enhance the outcome of the purpose.

How does the school in-charge help?

The teachers in charge should identify any behavioral changes in the kid at the earliest. Suppose the child does not mingle with other kids in the class, remains isolated, gets angry without reason, gets into fights quickly, shows a rebellion streak, or remains sleepy and tired. The teacher should immediately note and directly highlight the issue with school authorities for prompt interventions to avoid self-harm and suicidal attempts, one of the most alarming issues related to teenagers. In fact, death by suicide is the second leading cause of death among youth today. Many precious lives can be saved just by spreading awareness.

Adoption of Healthcare Information Technology (IT) has increased tremendously post-covid as medical doctors, specialists, hospitals, and patients increasingly trusted digital health technologies to access healthcare during and after the pandemic, which has set the path for sustained innovation and growth.

Path-breaking innovations transform healthcare facilities and assist the stakeholders in delivering health services more effectively. Today many software apps are introduced for managing clinical work and monitoring patient conditions remotely. Innovative technology start-ups are assisting in the smooth billing process, managing and streamlining patients’ records, appointments, and consultations, thus providing the transparency of diagnostic reports. Educational institutes can take advantage of these innovations to make their involvement more meaningful.

Children’s Mental health issues become complex if not treated timely; therefore, the onus lies with the schools and colleges to behave responsibly to ensure early detection, providing necessary assistance for our country’s healthy future. We have to make the strongest souls with the happiest spirits who can live mindfully and take care of themselves, including the resources of this earth. Amen! That day is not far away when the generation next will feel super healthy. The adoption of Healthcare Information Technology (IT) increased tremendously post-covid. Medical doctors, specialists, hospitals, pathology labs, imaging centers, and patients increasingly trusted digital health technologies for delivering or accessing healthcare during the pandemic, setting the platform for sustained innovation and growth.

From software for managing clinical workflows to technology that remotely monitors patient conditions, new innovations are transforming healthcare providers and helping the stakeholders to deliver patient care more effectively. Innovative technology start-ups assist providers and patients in simplifying the billing process, managing patient records, streamlining patient appointments, facilitating remote consultations, improving care delivery, increasing the accuracy of diagnostic reports, and much more physically and mentally.

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