Opinion: Importance of mental health awareness in school

New Delhi: Children spend most of their time in school and this is where the maximum development takes place. Ensuring an atmosphere of safety and comfort is a must, as well as mental health awareness. Mental health is not just the absence of mental illness, it includes a state of well-being where a person can reach learning potential, cope with normal stress, and be connected to the community of friends.

In most cases, mental illness begins to show early signs around age 15 to 17, but the majority of people seek help in adulthood. If schools become actively involved in mental health, we can slow the progression of mental illness through early intervention. To ensure effective delivery of mental health care to children, a multidisciplinary team is needed, which would include school leaders, teachers, staff, parents and school counsellors.

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The goal of school involvement is to look for early signs and symptoms of mental illness and to seek professional help if needed. In addition, schools help promote the healthy social and emotional development of children. Resilience building, which is the ability to cope with negative events and adversities, is also enhanced by schools where mental health and well-being are central concerns.

Schools should teach students about mental health more actively with an emphasis on identifying their emotions and an open door policy where children are listened to if they approach a member of staff. There should be an identified safe space in the school where children can go and perhaps talk to a school counselor or student volunteer. Teachers should also receive mental health training, so they know when to escalate problems and refer students to professional help. Even parents need to be trained to handle their children if they experience emotional turmoil.

Strict anti-bullying policies must be in place to ensure a comfortable environment for children. Children need to be educated about mental health as it is still a taboo subject and raising children’s awareness about their mental well-being by organizing some workshops will help them understand the subject better.

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Students should also be emphatic about physical health and the connection between physical and mental health. Emphasis should be placed on exercises to stay physically fit to ensure mental well-being. Introducing mindfulness training to adolescents can help them cope with stressors and make them more resilient. Yoga and breathing exercises are helpful as they help increase students’ focus and confidence. A confident child is more self-aware and able to handle situations better.

Promote positive self-esteem by supporting good decision-making, assertiveness and

Schools, especially these days when they reopened after covid, where only online learning was taking place, should focus on social interactions. Students should be encouraged to talk to their peers during breaks. There should be various academic and non-academic clubs that children should participate in.

The need to form a sense of community is a must where all students should be encouraged to discuss the uniqueness of each classmate, teacher and staff member. They need to be made aware

that all these people are together, and that they form a community together. They should be encouraged to do community building activities by highlighting each other’s activities.

School-based mental health programs are the need of the hour, especially as new and unique issues increase every day. Teachers who interact the most with students should identify any changes in the child’s behavior early on, such as the child not interacting with other children in the class, seeming very distracted, fighting easily, not following not take orders or was very sleepy. and tired, the teacher should immediately take note. The teacher should encourage talking to the child concerned and, if necessary, report the problem to the school authorities so that interventions can be started immediately and we can prevent any further deterioration. Self-harm and suicides among teenagers are the most alarming problems. In fact, death by suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15-25 year olds. Raising awareness can save lives.

Mental health problems are increasing every day, especially among children and adolescents, and it is the responsibility of the school to ensure early detection and provide help, to ensure a better and healthy future for our country.

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(Dr. Priyanka Mahajan Thukral is the Consultant Psychiatrist at Masina Hospital)

Disclaimer: These are the personal opinions of the author.

NDTV – Dettol has been working for a clean and healthy India since 2014 through the Banega Swachh India initiative, which is led by campaign ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. The campaign aims to highlight the interconnectedness of humans and the environment, and of humans to each other, with a focus on One Health, One Planet, One Future – Leaving No One Behind. It emphasizes the need to care for and consider the health of everyone in India – especially vulnerable communities – the LGBTQ population, indigenous peoples, various Indian tribes, ethnic and linguistic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants, geographically distant populations, gender and sexual minorities. As a result of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) is reaffirmed as hand washing is one of the ways to prevent coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign will continue to raise awareness on the same topic while focusing on the importance of nutrition and health care for women and children, the fight against malnutrition, mental well-being, self-care, science and health, adolescent health and gender awareness. Along with the health of people, the campaign realized the need to also take care of the health of the ecosystem. Our environment is fragile due to human activity, which not only overexploits available resources, but also generates immense pollution due to the use and extraction of these resources. The imbalance has also resulted in an immense loss of biodiversity which has caused one of the greatest threats to human survival – climate change. It has now been described as a “code red for humanity”. The campaign will continue to cover issues such as air pollution, waste management, plastic bans, manual garbage collectors and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene. Banega Swasth India will also pursue the dream of Swasth Bharat, the campaign believes that only a clean Swachh or India where toilets are used and Open Defecation (ODF) status achieved under the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like Diahorrea and the country can become a Swasth or a healthy India.

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