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World Mental Health Day 2023: Strategies to support children with mental health challenges

Supporting the mental health of school students is a shared responsibility. By prioritizing their well-being, conducting weekly Zoom meetings, and offering one-on-one sessions, we can empower students to thrive academically while safeguarding their emotional and mental health.

Kristina Das Written By: Kristina Das @https://twitter.com/KristinaDas2 New Delhi Published on: October 07, 2023 15:28 IST
world mental health day 2023
Image Source : FREEPIK Strategies to support children with mental health challenges.

The mental health of school students is of paramount importance, and it becomes even more critical during significant milestones such as board exams. According to recent statistics, at any given point in time, nearly 50 million Indian children suffer from various mental disorders. These numbers are even more significant when we consider the adolescent population. 

The Current Status of Child and Adolescent Mental Health in India

To provide context, let's briefly examine the current status of child and adolescent mental health in India. According to the National Mental Health Survey 2016, the prevalence of mental disorders among children aged 13–17 years is 7.3%. These disorders include depressive disorders (2.6%) and anxiety disorders (1.3%). The economic burden of neuropsychiatric disorders in India is estimated to be as high as 4% of the gross national product (GNP), with nearly 2% allocated to treating mentally ill individuals. These statistics underscore the urgency of addressing mental health issues among children and adolescents.

Here are essential approaches for effectively promoting the mental health of school students, as recommended by Mr Atharva Puranik, Co-Founder of ‘Padhle’, a K-12 EdTech Platform. He underscores the significance of placing students' well-being as the highest priority. This involves the beneficial practice of organizing weekly Zoom meetings and providing individual sessions for students dealing with personal or financial challenges.

Primary Importance to Mental Well-being

Before diving into specific strategies, it is essential to underline the importance of prioritizing mental health for school students. The academic journey can be challenging and stressful, particularly when board exams loom large. However, it is crucial to recognize that the well-being of students should always come first. Mental health should not be overshadowed by academic pressures, as the long-term consequences of neglecting it can be severe.

Hosting Weekly Zoom Gatherings 

One powerful tool for understanding and supporting students' mental health is the use of weekly Zoom meetings. These virtual gatherings offer a safe space for students to express their feelings, share their concerns, and seek guidance. According to the National Mental Health Survey 2016, early identification of mental health challenges is crucial. During these meetings, it's important to encourage open and honest communication. Discussing not only academic progress but also emotional and psychological aspects of students' lives can make a significant difference. Teachers can use this opportunity to identify signs of stress, anxiety, or other mental health challenges early on.

Individual Sessions for Personal Concerns

Not all students face the same challenges, and some may be dealing with personal or financial issues that significantly impact their mental health. To address these unique concerns, schools should offer one-on-one counselling sessions. Trained counsellors can work closely with individual students to understand their specific situations and provide tailored support and guidance.

These personalised sessions can be instrumental in helping students navigate personal crises and develop coping strategies. Whether it's financial difficulties, family problems, or personal insecurities, the support offered in one-on-one sessions can be a lifeline for those in need.

Placing Mental Health as the Top Priority

Ultimately, the overarching theme should be prioritizing mental health over everything else. Schools, educators, parents, and society as a whole must recognize that a student's mental well-being is the foundation upon which academic success can be built. The pressure to excel in exams can be overwhelming, but it should never come at the expense of a student's mental health.

Creating a Supportive Environment

In addition to Zoom meetings and one-on-one sessions, schools should strive to create a supportive environment that fosters mental well-being. This can include organizing stress-reduction workshops, meditation sessions, and teaching relaxation techniques. Encouraging physical activities and hobbies can also help students unwind and alleviate exam-related stress. Promoting a balanced lifestyle, which includes proper sleep, nutrition, and exercise, is vital in maintaining good mental health.

Supporting the mental health of school students is a shared responsibility. By prioritizing their well-being, conducting weekly Zoom meetings, offering one-on-one sessions, and fostering a supportive environment, we can empower students to thrive academically while safeguarding their emotional and mental health. In the end, a mentally healthy student is better equipped to excel in both their academic and personal life, setting the stage for a brighter future.

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