New Delhi: Establish mental health advisory committee, design mental health program and annual plan, sensitize stakeholders and train teachers on early identification and intervention of mental health problems in children – These are the main recommendations made in a manual published by the Department of Education for Schools and Teachers.
The handbook was released following the ministry’s first-ever mental health and wellbeing survey of 3.7 lakh schoolchildren. The investigation report was released on Tuesday.
There is a noticeable increase in challenges related to the psychosocial well-being of students, according to the document prepared by a committee led by Dr. Jitendra Nagpal, a mental health expert. Fostering a climate of emotional and behavioral safety in schools is therefore crucial, he said.
“Furthermore, there is a growing need to equip teachers and carers with the information and skills to facilitate early identification and basic intervention (psychosocial first aid) for the warning signs of mental health problems. in children and adolescents,” the document states.
Each school or group of schools should establish a mental health advisory committee, the manual recommends. It should be chaired by the principal and have teachers, parents, students and elders as members. It will raise awareness, plan and implement an annual “age and gender appropriate” school mental health program.
The main goal of a school mental health program would be to help children regularly practice methods like yoga and life skills to promote their well-being. This will allow them to manage stress effectively. “The school should have a provision for identifying behavior, substance use and self-harm, depression and developmental issues, providing first aid and making appropriate referrals,” the manual says.
In addition to this, schools should also have a health magazine wall activity led by adolescents under the supervision of teachers, who would conduct a monthly thematic activity and publish thematic community literature.
Emphasizing the importance of teacher training, the document states that most mental health problems appear at an early stage in life, as half of all mental health problems appear when individuals have 14 years and three quarters at the age of 25. “Besides families and parents, teachers need to be aware of the warning signs, as they are also the primary caregivers.”
Teachers should be trained to identify early signs in students of attachment problems, separation anxiety, school refusal, communication problems, anxiety patterns, depressive states, conduct problems, excessive Internet use, hyperactivity, intellectual disability and learning disabilities.
Emphasizing that bullying is a major problem and a risk factor for mental health problems among students, the ministry’s handbook states, “Teachers should discuss cases of bullying in the classroom and hold students accountable by educating them about bullying. They should provide students with a confidential way to report any incident that concerns them,”
He also said schools must educate and train teachers to identify possible signs, symptoms and behaviors of survivors of child sexual abuse.
Once a teacher identifies the problem, they should discuss it with parents and school counselors, the manual says. In serious cases, the school should refer the matter to a mental health professional, the document adds.
Explaining the importance of the handbook, Minister of Education Dharmendra Pradhan said in his note, “It will help teachers, teacher trainers, counselors and allied stakeholders to identify emotional and behavioral issues at school. right time and to improvise links with family and community to support the mental health needs of children.