Don’t live a life with hope in someone or something; live a life to find hope within yourself.
It is a cliché that a healthy mind resides in a healthy body, and so we usually focus on physical health, neglecting the mental part of it. The fact is that mental health is as important as physical health. Some organizations are gradually realizing that ensuring good mental health is of utmost importance. People suffering from physical health issues consult a doctor immediately, but when facing mental health issues, they hide and exhibit reluctance to seek expert advice. This is because society still attaches a stigma to the discussion of mental health issues, often associating them with mental illnesses. We need to create effective channels of communication with friends and relatives with whom we can share our woes and let our guard down without being judged. The need is to prioritize ourselves.
A school has various stakeholders, especially the students and staff members. Thus, ensuring proper care for these stakeholders is a prime concern. An institution can only grow if the associated individuals grow, and its well-being depends on the well-being of its stakeholders.
There is a lot of hue and cry about mental health issues, whether for teachers or students. So, the million-dollar question is, "What is mental health and well-being?" Mental health is a state of mental well-being that enables people to cope with stress, and a person is in a state of comfort in one’s zone and can effortlessly adapt to variations. Let us delve deeper into this often-neglected topic cloaked under the guise of normalcy.
What are the causes and effects of mental health issues in schools?
Before delving into such questionnaires, identify those who are vulnerable - students and teachers. We will subjectively analyze the perspective of both teachers and students.
The Perspective of a Teacher:
Our education system is witnessing an overhaul with the latest educational technology tools and modern approaches. The lecture method needs to be updated, and teachers must update themselves and be well-acquainted with all the latest developments, equipped with new skills. They have to deal with pupils exposed to a vast reservoir of knowledge via the internet, expecting their educators to match their pace. There is a section of faculty that fails to keep up and gets stressed, affecting their well-being.
A happy teacher creates a happy classroom, and thereby, happy learners. For students, various materials and help are available, but our educational facilitators are left to fend for themselves. Let's briefly review what our educators deal with.
Workload: Every job has its requirements, and workload is unavoidable. The problem is that teachers have to deal with the perception that it is an easy job, especially for Kindergarten and Primary levels. The stress becomes unbearable if the people around you don't acknowledge the work pressure, adding to the stress.
Lack of Resources: The new advancements place high expectations on educators, but our system still grapples with basic infrastructural problems and finances associated with them. For example, many schools can’t provide their teachers smart-boards or projector-equipped classrooms.
Stigma: Teachers cannot break down; they have to stay strong about their jobs. So, a stigma is attached to any discussion on personal or emotional issues. They feel emotionally insecure and hence are reluctant to discuss.
Load of Expectations: Students may remain in their skin, but educators have to be extraordinary and keep pupils motivated to achieve their highest potential.
Stature: We Indians equate the stature of a teacher to that of a Guru and thus refuse to accept their viewpoints as ordinary individuals.
It is high time we lend an empathetic ear to the issues concerning the teachers, who devote their time and energy towards building a brighter future for the country. We need to create an amicable environment to enable them to open up. Various government and non-government agencies conduct seminars at regular intervals to strengthen the workforce and empower them. It's time to recognize that investing in the well-being of educators is an investment in the future of education itself.
One small crack doesn't mean that you are broken; it means that you were put to the test, and you didn’t fall apart.
The Perspective of a Student:
Students are the assets of a country, and their personality assumes shape in a school. The contemporary generation is overburdened with unrealistic expectations. These students have to deal with peer pressure and undue exposure to social media. They are virtually connected but realistically disconnected. In this ever-expanding universe of knowledge, these young people find themselves grappling for breathing space. There is no dearth of ironies; syllabus reduction does not necessarily decrease the academic load or result in score appreciation. There are multiple sources of learning besides school teachers, e.g., online classes and YouTube content, yet these invariably fail to help an average student, who is spoilt for choice. The problem is there are various tools, but our children need to be more skilled to handle them.
Let’s explore the various issues affecting children's mental health and well-being.
Social environment: Children are like sponges as they absorb from their surroundings. If exposed to negative and insensitive people, they tend to be affected by them. This plays havoc with their mental well-being, affecting their personalities and sometimes leaving an indelible imprint on their impressionable, susceptible minds.
Socioeconomic conditions of the family: A school is a place where boundaries of social and economic status get blurred, and students belonging to different social fibers come together. But in rare cases, students from deprived sections face discrimination, affecting their mental health. Extreme behavior changes are witnessed in individual students because of inferiority and sometimes due to a superiority complex as well.
Stress: Believe it or not, stress among students is common these days. Peer pressure, parental pressure, and academic pressure involving a load of assignments and even regular tests and examinations cause stress and tension. Most of our children fail to manage time and plan accordingly, which in the long run manifests in the form of various mental health problems.
Physical health issues: Physical health issues, if left untreated, cumulatively affect mental health.
Apart from the above-mentioned issues, the most important one affecting mental health is:
Excessive use of smartphones: Various researchers have discovered that addiction to mobile games and social media platforms has a serious negative impact on mental health. Students cannot differentiate between reality and the virtual world, avoid meeting people, and get cocooned in their segregated artificial existence. All of this has serious repercussions on their overall health and well-being.
There is an urgent need to have counseling teams in our schools and institutions to guide the students and safeguard them from mental health problems.
Each one of us has a really important role to play as a friend and connect with those individuals who display a disturbing behavior pattern.
Red Flags: Seek help if any one or more are there in an individual:
Lack of interest in things that were enjoyable earlier.
Difficulty in concentration.
Sudden mood swings.
Change in appetite.
Anger management issues.
Acing the Issues: The ways to deal with them at a personal level
Regular exercise or just a walk.
Catch up with family and friends.
Sleep on time.
Focus on positivity and cut negativity.
School leaders play a crucial role in ensuring that students and teachers are shielded from mental health issues. This involves fostering strong connections with stakeholders and eliminating communication gaps. Positivity serves as the cornerstone.
Remember, your current circumstances don't dictate where you can go; they simply indicate where you can start.