Mental Health on a Slippery Slope in Schools.

-By Udbhav Mehta

Mental Health in School

There is an indispensable need to improve mental health problem prevention mechanisms in schools and identify the fallacies in the system amongst stakeholders like administrators, student support staff, teachers, researchers, practitioners, and students. Disseminating information and creating awareness about mental health can help students self-diagnose problems and seek help. It can help remove the stigmas surrounding mental health as well.

Existing research highlights that the major player in the de facto system of care is the education sector- more than three-fourths of children receiving mental health services did so from the education sector and for some, it was the sole source of care.

Though schools widely agree that healthier students learn and perform better, schools run to educate and there are limitations to what an educational institute can do for mental health. Additionally, students are placed in countless different social contexts and can possibly be exposed to a range of stressors (out of school) like:

  • Deficiencies in basic human resources and opportunities like the dearth of food, lack of proper clothing, poverty, transportation hassles, and inadequate after-school supervision.

  • More observable issues like language difficulties, substance abuse, school adjustment problems, and bullying.

  • Crises and emergencies like the death of a schoolmate, domestic violence, or other domestic issues and natural calamities.

Without the proper understanding of ‘self’ and proper development of personal goals and functional autonomy, attending school can be a treacherous journey for some students.

Recent successful mental health initiatives are all student-run programs. SentiMate itself is the brainchild of a student. Schools lack the initiative to set up a comprehensive mechanism because they are not mandated to do so. That is why we see a reactionary approach to mental health which serves only a small portion of students. Academic and socio-emotional learning go hand in hand. There is evidence that mental well-being is directly proportional to academic performance.

A proper mechanism for schools should ideally be set up after research, planning, and then analyzing data and screening outcomes. We need to pave the way for a systematic way of individualized assessment, a robust mental health framework, suicide prevention programs, ethical screening for behavioral issues, and most of all, resources and personnel to facilitate the rehabilitation of at-risk students!