Rajiv Bansal, Director (Operations), Global Indian International School, Balewadi, in an interview with The Indian Express, highlights the steps the school has taken to combat mental health.
Do children in your school suffer from mental health problems? What is the proportion of children who suffer from mental health problems?
Student life consists of mild stressors such as confusion, test anxiety and peer pressure. A diagnosed mental disorder such as depression, panic attack, ADHD are severe versus mild life stressors. At GIIS, Balewadi, we focus on equipping our students with skills to overcome life stressors in healthy ways that prevent them from escalating into a serious problem. At least 0.3 percent of our students seek treatment for a diagnosed mental illness.
What steps did you take to resolve the issue?
A school-run mental health program is more of an opportunity than a problem for the school. A proactive plan involving the many stakeholders in a student’s life is established. A full-time school counselor conducts regular hands-on workshops with students on class-specific and needs-specific topics. Students who need individual counseling are then identified with the expertise of a counselor and the help of parents and teachers. An individual counseling plan is then tailored for the child based on a comprehensive psychosocial and educational assessment report.
Is it the stress of studying that leads to mental health problems in children?
Yes. Each person has a different ability to understand, learn and apply. It seems unfair to judge a learner solely on the basis of memory. Some students may perform very well on a timed exam and be able to thrive under the environment (eustress), others may not be well equipped to cope. Guiding the student towards a more confident educational plan and a healthy handling of emotions is key to avoiding extreme stress on the study.
Are parents also responsible for the mental health of children?
Yes. Parents are the most important stakeholders in a student’s mental health. Younger children pick up behaviors by looking at others. Parents are their most important role models. The healthier behavior a parent exhibits – the child picks up the same. When a child observes or talks about the parent’s concern for mental health, the child automatically learns this behavior.
Are teachers also to blame for mental health problems?
Yes. Students spend a lot of time with teachers. Since our primary means of communication in school is verbal language, we need to choose our words carefully. Teachers also play a very important role in early detection of deviant behavior. Early intervention that channels the issue properly is critical for a teacher.
Does peer pressure also put children under psychological stress?
Peer pressure is one of the main triggers for stress. Teens are always looking for something that makes them appear “cooler” than their peers. A counselor working with students can address issues of being okay with one’s true self and not falling for the appearance of peer pressure. Self-acceptance and respect for oneself and others are vital for a person to neither generate nor fall under peer pressure.
Is student mental health a big problem in schools?
Mental health is a combination of the social, emotional, and behavioral self. In different age groups, children show different behavioral concerns. A younger demographic may exhibit mental health disorders such as separation anxiety, ADHD, learning disabilities, while an adolescent demographic may exhibit signs of bullying, social anxiety, depression, social trauma, etc. as a major problem.
The school is also an institution that takes full care of the student’s personality. Educating and desensitizing students to how to care for their mental health is as important as teaching hygiene, academics, and career development.
How much weight does the National Education Policy give to mental health?
Mental health has only recently entered national education policy. Finding the most effective way to raise our children while making them good mentally, physically, and emotionally should be a top priority.