“Mental health needs a great deal of attention. It’s the final taboo and it needs to be faced and dealt with.” — Adam Ant
Mental health is a state of well-being where people can meet their learning potential, cope with normal stress, and are connected to community as well to their friends. Mental health is concerned with the health of one’s mind and its functioning, in the same way that physical well-being is concerned with the health of one’s physical organs and their functioning.
For most people, mental health issues emerge when they are young. Half of all mental disorders emerge by the time people are 14 years old and three-quarters of the issues by the time they are 25 years old – the same period when most people are in education. Education in schools plays a big role in development of children and adolescents and provides room and scope for interventions at all levels of the schooling span.
Apart from academic learning, schools provide a child with an opportunity to interact with each other, form social skills and build their first relationships outside of the family. Children come to school from different households, backgrounds and financial abilities. Stress from home life can bleed into their school life and create a toxic environment. This will impair the child’s ability to perform academically in school.
Mental health issues are not limited to the study burden. Bullying, societal influence, relationship with class fellows, or concerns about one’s growth, looks, inferiority complex etc can also disrupt the mental well-being of children. It has been stated by the WHO that nearly 20 percent of children and adolescents suffer from a disabling mental illness, worldwide. Studies in India indicate that nearly 10-15 percent of young people in the age group of 16 years and below suffer from a diagnosable psychiatric disorder. So, mental health education is a mandatory aspect in all schools.
Teachers and administrators can work to promote awareness among the students. Key elements to shine a light on include the concept of self-care and responsibility for one’s own mental health and wellness, with an emphasis on the fact that mental health is an integral part of health. Teachers and students should be provided with ways to recognize signs of developing mental health problems and there should be awareness and management of mental health crises, including the risk of self-harm, substance abuse, behavioural problems, etc. Activities and interventions must be designed to enhance protective factors and minimise risk factors.
Today, psychologists have become a crucial part of the education system. Every school must have a well trained psychologist/ counsellor who may be able to spot the early signs of any behavioural or disruptive tendencies. Children with such kind of problems must be responded to empathetically, appropriately and with kindness. There must be an environment that is full of communication and support rather than punishment. All the teachers should receive mental health training and tackle mental health and well-being through behaviour policy, curriculum design, care and support, and engagement of parents. Government must include psychology in the curriculum of the children, which may help them to diagnose their personalities.
Let the child be freed from the shackles of mental blocks and let his/ her imagination run its course.
The writer has a PhD in Psychology and can be reached at [email protected]