In the aftermath of a mental health survey conducted in schools across India, NCERT (National Council of Educational Research and Training) has issued guidelines taking note of and treating mental health issues of school students.

This move indicates progression in the path to address the much-neglected issue of mental health of Indian children.

This directive has come after students earmarked school assignments, examinations, and also the wait for results as some of the major causes of anxiety in the survey. Guidelines have been released under the report “Early identification and intervention for mental health problems in school-going children and adolescents”.

Mental Health Directory

The NCERT guidelines have outlined that schools should set up a mental health advisory panel, a school-based mental health program, and pedagogical support to improve the mental health of both students and their parents. This emphasis stems from the fact that the school is the venue where children spend the early part of their lives learning and growing up.

The guidelines read, “School management, principal, teachers, other staff, and students all spend around 1/3 of a day and around 220 days in a year in schools across the states and UTs in India. For residential schools, the time spent by a student in the school community is even more.”

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This long period of time spent in schools is cited as the main reason for the schools’ responsibility to take care of mental health issues besides basic security. “The schools should have a provision for identifying behavior, substance use and self-harm, depression, and developmental concerns, provide first aid and make appropriate referrals.”

Strong Role of Teachers

Given that most mental health issues emerge when individuals are 14 years old, NCERT has noted the importance of teachers as primary caregivers besides family. They should also be notified about early fag signs that may lean toward a possible mental health problem.

The directory stated, “Teachers must be trained in identifying early signs in students for attachment issues, separation anxiety, school refusal, communication issues, anxiety patterns, depressive states, conduct-related issues, excessive internet use, hyperactivity, intellectual disability, and learning disabilities”.

With regard to bullying, the guidelines instructed teachers to empower students by educating them about bullying. They should also “provide a confidential way for students to report any incident which is of concern to them”.

R Vishal, Karnataka Commissioner for Public Instruction, pointed out that setting up of a mental health advisory panel is not enough, as on previous occasions it has not worked out. “While guidelines can be issued, they must be followed by adopting proper policies and arranging funds”, he said.

Disclaimer: This article is fact-checked

Sources: India Today, The Hindu, The New Indian Express

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Feature Image designed by Saudamini Seth

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