Why schools should include mental health education in curriculum?
One in four people suffer from a mental illness world over, the fear and stigma associated with matters related to mental health stops people from reaching out and seeking help; they simply continue to suffer in silence, and sometimes, even in ignorance.
What many people are not aware of is that psychiatric disorders are medical illnesses, just like any other illness that afflicts the body. It arises from a combination of biological, psychosocial and lifestyle related factors, and just like any other illness, can be cured given the right intervention at the right time. From the very start, we talk about physical health openly; in fact, schools have classes on health, hygiene, nutrition and sanitation.
3 Different components of mental health curriculum in schools:
1. To create awareness about the importance of emotional well-being, remove the taboo around mental illness and sensitive students to individuals who may be in distress.
The idea is not to go into the specifics of various disorders and their manifestations, but rather, to understand that mental health related problems are real, that they are not due a person's character flaw or weakness, and that many people around us may be in suffering.
2. Encouraging help seeking behaviour.
The feelings of isolation, hopelessness and helplessness people experience, which may lead them to take drastic steps, can in fact be ameliorated if students know where and how they can reach out for help. The idea that seeking help is a strength rather than a weakness must be highlighted. And most importantly, rather than relying on unreliable sources of information such as peers or the internet, students need to have a safe space in the form of teachers and counsellors with whom they can share their concerns.
3. The preventive aspect - can we take any steps to ensure that students are better able to adapt and cope with the pressures and challenges they face.
The answer to this lies in life-skills training - educating students on enhancing self and emotional awareness, improving communication skills such as empathy and assertiveness, thinking critically and taking effective decisions, and coping effectively with stress, with a positive attitude and mindset.
We understand that educational institutions today are discussing reducing examination syllabi to reduce the burden of academics that students are experiencing, and given this milieu, the idea of a mental health curriculum might be hard to fathom.
A mental health curriculum is not about adding more syllabus. In fact, skills for life can hardly be taught by way of textbooks and examinations. Instead, we need a more open, interactive approach, spearheaded by the school counsellors of every school.
Rather than waiting for students to come to us in distress, we need to go out there into classrooms - to engage in dialogue in a controlled classroom environment, to conduct group interactions to get a perspective of students' understanding of mental health, and most of all, to use teaching moments to talk about the things that impact us, as they occur in our everyday lives.
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Credit: India Today