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Tuesday, 29 September 2020

MENTAL HEALTH AWARENESS IN SCHOOLS -by Meenu Ahuja

 

How do we know that someone is going through something or is disturbed by something? We notice a change in their behaviour, right? Well, it’s the same with children. But sadly, we mistake it as stubbornness, rudeness, indiscipline, etc.. So, what do we end up doing? We scold them, lock them, hit them, or start taunting and insulting them. Well, all this just pushes them over the edge and make them feel worse.



According to the American Psychiatric Association, Fifty percent of mental illness begins by the age of 14. According to The National Crime Records Bureau, every hour one student commits Suicide in India. Shocking, isn’t it? Didn’t it feel like someone just tugged at your heart?

It’s time we destigmatize Mental Health issues and start talking about them at the learning stages of life. Since, School is the place where kids spend most of their time, learn to socialise and get a sense of self-worth, it is imperative that Mental Health be taught in Schools to parents, teachers as well as the students.If kids are taught about it at a young age, they won’t bottle up their troubles and would feel free to talk about them and can be saved from lifelong effects of their issues.

It is utterly important for us to understand the signs that we should be aware of as teachers, guardians, and siblings to look in children. Some of them could be:

·         Avoiding School

·         Avoiding Playing or any other entertainment like TV, Video Games, etc.

·         Sudden drop in performance

·         Stubbornness, Aggressiveness and Frequent crying

·         Being uncharacteristically distant and withdrawn

·         Being indifferent to their favorite activities, foods and Toys

·         Sudden change in eating habits

·         Incomplete notebooks

·         Staying in bed all day

·         Apathy

·         Nervousness


Once we identify the signs, it is paramount to be aware of the possible reasons of a child’s behavioral change. To list a few:

·         Divorced Parents

In case the parents are divorced, the kid suffers the most during separation, court hearings (if any), societal pressure of not having a normal family, lack of one parent, peers’ bullying, asked to choose the parent the kid wants to live with, juggling between the parents in case of shared custody. If the custodian parent, remarries, the kid might not be able to accept them replacing their own parent and can worsen their mindset. Such a situation can leave a traumatic effect on a child for a very long time.

·         Adopted Children

If the child is adopted, and is not shown empathy and acceptance, once informed, can start feeling inadequate and might shut themselves emotionally. Also, there can be scenarios, where the other children tease the child, aggravating the negative thoughts.

·         Underprivileged Children

Students coming from low- or medium-income groups may sometimes feel lack of resources and luxuries when they compare themselves to their rich class fellows, developing a compare and despair attitude. Children often end up lying about themselves to their friends so as to be accepted and seen as equal but later experience the pressure of maintaining that image. This pressure can lead to teens behaving aggressively and developing an attitude of lying.

·         Romantic Relationships

High School students usually get involved in romantic relationships and if it doesn’t work out, they tend to develop feelings of inadequacy, self-doubt, Self-consciousness, etc.. that might lead to depression.

·         Performance Pressure

Children who have grown up with Scholars in the family, start to feel the pressure of excelling at a very young age. In case they don’t perform well, and the family is not supportive of them, they end up feeling disappointed with themselves and to the family.

·         Neglect or Lack of Attention

If the child is neglected or not provided with the required attention, the impact of isolation and disconnection can go a long way.

·         Sexuality

Due to the stigma of being anything other than heterosexual in aspects of sexualities, children feel that the society, even their family, won’t accept them and they find it difficult to come out of the closet leaving them with a fear of rejection and hence constant self-consciousness.

The first step towards the betterment of the situation is destigmatizing the taboo related to talking about Mental health issues. As long as this is considered as an abnormal topic, people won’t be comfortable to seek help. This should start at a very young age.Since students feel ashamed talking about the issues regarding their thought processes and their feelings, normalizing it would make them feel that they are just having a normal conversation. Some of the measures that can be opted –

·         Basic Mental Health should be a part of the Curriculum that isn’t taught by the books but by conversing with the students. The class should be taken by the Counsellor who can encourage the students to come forward and talk about the students, if not in groups, at least on a one-on-one basis

·         Workshops and Life skills programs should be held at regular intervals for parents, teachers and the students separately, but mandatorily.

o   Once taught, parents and teachers would be able to identify the warning signs of a child going through a disturbing thought and the child can get appropriate help before it’s too late.In case a particular issue is noted in a child, his/her parents should be informed well beforehand and teachers along with the parents can help the student cope up with the issues

o   Teachers need to be made understood on how to treat the children in classes. Talking to the child personally regarding any incompletion of work or behavioral issues would be far better than Insulting, scolding or hitting them.

o   Children themselves would be able to identify their own as well as their friends’ negative thoughts and would freely talk about it.



·         Taboos and stigmas should slowly be normalized by explaining the logics to the students. This could include – Sexism, Racism, Homosexuality, body shaming, loss of a parent, bullying, gossiping, judging people, underprivileged children

·         The practice of having clubs like film club, drama clubs, book clubs, etc will give the students a feeling of inclusiveness when they get into a community of common interests.

 

So, let’s start talking about Mental health issues and make it as important as Physical Health. Let’s make expressing our thoughts a normal conversation rather than mocking the person.

Let’s stop with the bullying and start with understanding our friends. Let us all together spread smiles and bring people out of their negativity.

There is nothing more contagious than the laughter of young children, it doesn’t even have to matter what they are laughing about” – Criss Jami. Let’s try keeping each and every child’s contagious laughter alive.




Meenu Ahuja 

About Author: Meenu is a Commerce graduate with an experience of more than 2.5 years in the same field. She is passionate about mental health, Social Psychology and Stigmas with an aspiration to become a Counselor after doing her Masters in Psychology. She loves reading, writing and is a fan of Sitcoms and movies.

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