Invest in Mental Wellness at School, to aid the holistic success of Students

Students spend a considerable amount of time in school; sufficient enough for them to call it their second home. The 10 years or so that they spend in the educational institute become an integral part of their childhood memories, while also being a foundation for their future in education. But is it all positive, especially with the educational structure currently adopted by most schools?

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Today’s children are under immense pressure. Exams, grades and expectations have added a heavy burden of stress on them, sometimes culminating in anxiety, depression and other mental health issues. To that end, concernson mental health have become an ineluctable crisis that schools must address. Today, concepts like ‘Holistic Development’ and mental health programs like the ‘Happiness Curriculum’ are becoming necessary to help students wade through insidious waters of demands and expectations in education. Schools must become a fundamental part of the students’ health systems to ensure that they can stay afloat. This growing realization on the importance of Mental Health awareness was furthered by the World Health Organization (WHO), which advocated for the integration of school mental health programs.

Adding to the point, investments in mental health can be a boon to the holistic development of students, who face numerous transitions in their psychological, cognitive, emotional, social and moral domains during their childhood. Moreover, when done efficiently at a school level, it can further the growth and success of students in terms of their education.

Mental health issues during the education process can be brought about by many small factors including:

  • Excessive competitiveness
  • Intensifying pressure
  • Fear of failure
  • Lack of self-confidence
  • Social anxiety

However, when addressed by school systems, students are offered the potential to overcome these issues and develop on a broader basis. Even effortslike those done in IB schools, where report cards and marks are not put up for display on notice boards are small steps towards promoting better mental health. To that end, schools and teachers can contribute to furthering an environment that is conducive to improving mental health through the following ways:

  1. Spreading awareness – Breaking the taboo around the topic and can help students understand if they need help. They should not feel embarrassed nor judged to talk about it. Schools can start by inculcating regular sessions or weekly discussion around the topic. Teachers can address mental health issues and methods to work on them in lessons. These steps can help students know that they are not alone.Thereafter, once students start to take care of their emotional and social wellbeing, they start improving in other facets of their development.
  2. Counselling and one-on-one sessions – Whether with professional counsellors or teachers, students should have opportunities to discuss what is on their mind and that which is putting stress on them. Communication is key, and students need guidance to understandhow they can improve or address their issues. Counselling also sets a precedent for understanding strengths and weaknesses and enables a foundation for future growth. It helps students find a path towards becoming who they want to be. In many schools, especially IB schools, staff members are trained to facilitate mental wellness and crisis intervention for students. This added step ensures that student receive support when they need it.
  3. School mental health programs – Weekly or monthly programs that encourage connections, activities and cooperation go a long way towards promoting better mental health. Interaction, exercise and social gatherings help students build necessary skills, set achievable goals and reduce stress. It forms the basis for boosting self-esteem and improving emotional well-being. These programs help students find the confidence to work on themselves.

Studies have found that students who receive positive behavioural and mental health intervention, such as counselling and open communication, see improvements on a spectrum ranging from academic performance to personal development. Specifically, students with a positive mental health outlook show benefits in the following areas:

  • Enhanced resilience and a drive for personal success
  • Better time management skills
  • Strengthened acumen for setting goals and solving problems
  • Greater self-confidence and self-esteem

Simply put, education can no longer solely cater to the students’ academic growth. While academics play an important part in student development, it is not the only facet of student life that schools must address. In fact, to boost academic performance, schools should cater to the students’ physical, emotional, mental and social well-being. Schools need to invest in addressing mental health issues as it helps enable the all-round or holistic development of students. It can help boost the students’ confidence in their abilities and growth and empower them to deal with the stress that stands to hinder their progress and future success.

School should not only focus on lessons and grades, but also education for life. The education system should really start to pay attention to the student’s well being too, and mindfulness meditation is one of the best methods for that. It will teach the students to improve their mindful awareness that can help them coping with stress, improve their optimism about life and also improve their performance in school.

Mukesh Sharma is the founding chairperson of Prometheus School in Noida – an educational institution with a goal to provide re-imagined and holistic education. An entrepreneur and visionary, Mukesh brings in 25 years of industry experience, backed by his initiatives including QA InfoTech, a Software Quality Engineering Services Company, employing over 1300 people globally. An active industry evangelist, Mr. Sharma has authored several books and papers to benefit the software engineering and quality disciplines.