Mechanisms for Mental Healthcare in Schools

Mechanisms for Mental Healthcare in Schools By Paridhi Puri
A female teacher sits consoling a young student in the corridor, the little girl looks very upset and holds her head in her hands.

Social-emotional skills allow kids and adults alike to understand and recognize our thoughts and feelings in order to connect with others. They help us communicate and express ourselves in an appropriate way in a range of environments with different people. Children’s experiences in their earliest years affect how their brains work, the way they respond to stress, and their ability to form trusting relationships. During these years the brain undergoes its most dramatic growth, setting the stage for social and emotional development. Language blossoms, basic motor abilities form, thinking becomes more complex, and children begin to understand their own feelings and those of others.

Various epidemiological studies implicate a high prevalence rate of mental health problems in children and adolescents in India. In a multi-centre epidemiological study of child and adolescent psychiatric disorders in urban and rural areas, the prevalence rate was found to be around 12% (Srinath & Sitholey, 2005). Childhood and adolescence mark significant transitions in physiological, cognitive, emotional, moral, social, and other domains. 4 out of 10 students experienced depression as per a 2016 Lokniti-Centre for the Study of Developing Societies Youth survey. One student commits suicide every hour according to the National Crime Records Bureau data.

School Mental health (SMH) programs have proven efficacy in enhancing psychological well-being of school-going children. The World Health Organization (WHO) also advocates SMH to be a fundamental part of school health systems, having components of promotion of psychosocial competence, mental health education, and provision of services for those needing mental health interventions. The project aims to realize Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) 4 on quality education promoting a culture of peace and non-violence; SDG 5.5, ensuring children’s full and effective participation and equal

opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision making in political, economic and public life. Furthermore, outcomes of the project will contribute to Target 16.7 on ensuring responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making at all levels.

This can be achieved through the following:

  1. Reviewing mental health awareness campaigns through the lens of equity, diversity and inclusion.
  2. Developing scalable community outreach initiatives underway with professional organisations which involve the students.
  3. Understand the demographics and emotional intelligence impact of the student community we work with as a whole.
  4. Personalized learning and advocacy of global issues through resource mobilization.

The creation of a pilot for school-based mental health justice for vulnerable youth is the need of the hour. The key tenants should focus on improving mental health literacy among stakeholders in the education system and investing in capacity-building that utilizes existing resources and school leadership to ensure sustainability.

Apart from this, creating and implementing a trainer’s module for a basic, preventive and intersectional feminist understanding of mental health and forming parent-child-community collaboration for youth mental health with school is a nodal point. This will facilitate the establishment of a replicable model of school curriculum with an integrative mental health component.

With these mechanisms in place, the development of a school-system approach which is an active stakeholder in promoting the mental health and justice of socio-politically vulnerable youth in India is the need of the hour.

Paridhi Puri
is a youth advocate and an economics undergraduate
at Jesus and Mary College,
University of Delhi.


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