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7 Must Know Facts on the Need for Mental Health Awareness

7 Must Know Facts on the Need for Mental Health Awareness

Teaching about mental health is one of the biggest challenges when it comes to training the high school students. The first and foremost challenge is we need to impart knowledge to the students’ parents that “Mental Health” is not a negative word. It is the word which will help students to make effective decisions at the right time.

However, the moment we utter the word "mental health", parents would go on the defensive saying "are you guys trying to tell us that our kids have some mental issues"? "No! they don't have, and please don't tell us that you are going to add something more on to their tender brains and in effect also on our brains as already overstressed out parents!"

Parents’ behavior is usually polarized; either goes defensive as due to the fear of being called “irresponsible” or they drop the kids at our mercy and tell the teachers to fix the problems.

Therefore, before we include the mental health awareness or education into the educational system it would be better to create a confidence among the parents, by having an introductory session with them during the parent-teacher meeting which must be presided over by an expert from the mental health domain, who could provide crucial and essential information on the matter and establish the importance of integrating the “Mental Health” education as a part of the curriculum. Once the parents are convinced the education and training on this matter will become effective.

Need for 'mental health awareness' among high school students:

  1. In most of the high schools, the high achievers may have a large amount of anxiety and stress to perform well in every test and assignment
  2. Some students, who come from 'difficult' family backgrounds like abusive or drunkard father, can bully others at the school, therefore ruining their image, and of their victims. The schools are, therefore, a "prime spot" of bullying.
  3. Students who are bullied may notice a change in their behavior, may experiences depressive episodes or anxiety towards going to school or specific situations especially if they're compelled by a classmate or a senior at their school.
  4. School curriculums are relatively 'draining' for the students Spending about 6-7 hours in a school and then going to  home to concentrate on homework for another 2 hours isn't easy for the mind or the body.
  5. Students may experience self-confidence or self-esteem issues. When at school, one may compare themselves to others would lead to reduce their confidence level
  6. While the school itself doesn't impact the mental health all the time, it for sure does contribute many such scenarios that can affect the psyche of the students.
  7. Even before the students, the teachers themselves must be first taught how to cope with stress, how to live in the present or how to deal with real-life matters.

Suggested topics to be covered in the School Curriculum:

The curriculum must be designed and developed by trained professional psychologists.

Nutrition awareness for healthy eating

We all know how the school system teaches us about this subject today. The information that typically taught is incorrect or makes gross over-generalizations. Discussing eating disorders openly is so detrimental to young people recognizing eating issues/disorders within themselves and causing a barrier to them getting proper help in identifying if some students need to have more balanced diets and take care of their nutrient deficiencies which also causes mental health issues as well as physical growth issues.

Self-care for balancing of school/home life

Students should be taught how to balance their work, but also how to prioritize their own mental and physical health above all else. Self-care is so imperative in mental health, and it is so simplistic, yet I find this as a tough thing for the people to prioritize healthy time management.

Inculcate Emotional Intelligence

It is so important to embed the social and emotional learning into your teaching practices that would engage students in problem-solving matters, and instill perseverance and determination in them. We need to prepare models to impart respect individually to develop, self-respect and respecting others. Also, incorporate character education which means that the social and moral responsibility needs to be encouraged among students to develop and share opinions and also impart resilience and perseverance.

Mentoring for Sensitivity Training

This is important for teachers too so that they know which kids need assistance on this matter. Once the sensitive kids are identified, we need to constitute peer counseling to them. A peer-group mentor program with slightly older "sister" or "brother" that would handhold them for a healthy role model or other programs would enable addressing the issue better.

Moral Character building

The students should be imparted with the moral values, principles and beliefs that they should think what would be important in their life. It tends to live their lives by such values as guiding principles of ethical behavior. They need to be taught about virtues such as honesty, integrity, truthfulness, helpfulness, love, respectfulness, hard-work; this will help them to build a strong character and self-confidence as an individual.

Communicate Positivity

Staying positive in all situations makes the person tough mentally. Following this notion, the values taught in our childhood tend to shape our decisions as an adult. In such scenario, it becomes essential to make our children aware of how to handle any situation positively from the beginning.

Respect diversity and appreciate differences

Tolerance and compassion must be taught to the students who are coming from different cultures and backgrounds. I would say that the most important things schools can do to support mental health are subtle. An environment in which everyone is same in all the aspects like caste, religion, and other physical attributes is routinely treated with respect and compassion that makes the isolation and stigma associated less likely to occur.

Social Skills development

Some children have social skills deficits and other issues which could impact their mental health which can sometimes be addressed through more traditional skills treatment. This can be effective only when the children have interest in social issues and the practices discussed above are in place.

Gender Sensitization

Gender sensitization refers to the modification of behavior by raising creating awareness of gender equality concerns. This can be achieved by conducting various sensitization campaigns, workshop, programs etc.

Gender sensitization refers to changing the behavior through instilling empathy into the views that we hold about ourselves and on the other genders.

Make Education the fun way

Whatever approach of teaching mental health issues you adopt, your main goal should be to do everything possible to create an environment in which everyone feels safe and equal and that they have support available to them should they need it. School should be perceived as a safe place for all who enter the doors, rather than a frightening or bullying space for anyone.

Summary

The need for including mental health is of utmost importance in today's social scenario as we all are fully aware of the recurrent cases of child abuse as well as children facing social discrimination based on ethnicity; therefore students coming from different cultural backgrounds should be treated equally so that an inclusive society can be expected to evolve in future.

About the Author

Kishore Shintre has been authoring stories based on fiction since many decades and his first two collections of short stories were published in the year 2000. He has written over 1,000 articles on LinkedIn which are well acclaimed by the readers. Professionally, he is the  'Head of Corporate Communications' with Hindustan Laboratories based in Mumbai.