Understanding the Importance of Proactive Mental Health Measures for Student Well-Being


On World Mental Health Day, Recognizing the Crucial Need for a Reliable Support System for Students

On October 4, 2023, the Union Ministry of Education unveiled guidelines specifically designed to address the mental well-being of students who display self-harming behaviors. The document, titled “Understand, Motivate, Manage, Empathize, Empower, Develop” (UMMEED), was introduced in response to the increasing instances of self-harm among students.

These guidelines stress the significance of effectively handling personal and social issues, as improper management can lead to severe consequences, including depression, frustration, mood swings, feelings of hopelessness, and, in extreme cases, self-harm or even suicide. This recent government initiative underscores the need to prioritize students’ mental well-being. As World Mental Health Day approaches on October 10, it offers an ideal opportunity to review and reassess the measures aimed at enhancing the mental resilience of the next generation.

Ways to Assist Young Individuals in Self-Regulating Emotions and Seeking Support as Necessary

Recognizing Factors Affecting Mental Health

According to a report titled ‘Prevalence of Depression in School-Going Adolescents and Its Impact on Scholastic Performance,’ published by the National Library of Medicine in April 2023, 37 percent of the study’s participants, aged between 14 and 22, reported experiencing depression.

Among them, 31 percent displayed mild depression, 5 percent exhibited moderate symptoms, and 1 percent grappled with severe depression. What factors contribute to these depressive behaviors and anxiety?

When parents and educators recognize that mental health issues and student stress often originate from parental expectations, peer pressure, and the burden of meeting rigorous academic standards, they can proactively address these challenges.

This approach will help create a nurturing and supportive environment to promote the mental well-being of students.

Enhancing Parental Awareness and Involvement

When parents maintain open lines of communication and convey unconditional love and acceptance to their children, it is likely to have a positive impact on their mental health. Providing constructive feedback and encouragement can aid children in navigating both success and setbacks. Being attuned to any alterations in their demeanor, sleep patterns, behavior, and personality is equally important.

Active engagement in their daily routines, school-related activities, and regular communication with teachers is of utmost importance. It’s also crucial to ensure a balanced approach to school and life in students’ lives and instill in them the understanding that exams do not solely determine success; a fulfilling life awaits them beyond these assessments.

Educators’ Role in Fostering Holistic Development

When it comes to schools, often considered as a second home for children, teachers emerge as the primary influential figures. They play a vital role in guiding and supporting students on their educational journey, but their contribution can extend far beyond academics. As recommended by UNICEF in its report outlining eight ways teachers can support students’ mental health, educators have a critical responsibility to closely observe changes in children’s behavior.

If significant and persistent changes are impacting a student’s ability to fulfill academic responsibilities or engage in recreational activities, teachers should promptly reach out to parents and establish a support network to prevent any student from descending into a psychological crisis.

The Vital Role of Counseling Support in Schools

In accordance with guidance from international agencies and policymakers, school administrations should take proactive steps to safeguard the mental well-being of students.

Fostering Inclusive and Discrimination-Free School Environments

Last month, the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) introduced a significant initiative to foster a bias-free and positive school environment, while prioritizing the prevention of abuse. One of the key recommendations from CBSE is the establishment of ‘Happiness Zones’ within schools.

These zones are designed to facilitate various activities aimed at improving students’ mental health, including yoga, mindfulness practices, hobbies, maintaining a ‘positivity board,’ and participation in extracurricular activities.

The National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 similarly underscores the importance of such efforts, emphasizing a concentrated focus on the socio-emotional aspects of education as a vital component of holistic learning. Teaching self-care and mindfulness as essential life skills reminds young learners that their well-being holds greater value than conventional measures of success. At every opportunity, students should be reminded of the words of writer Max Lucado, ‘You are valuable just because you exist. Not because of what you do or what you have done, but simply because you are.

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