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Prioritising Mental Health in Education: Building Resilience for Life

“One small crack does not mean that you are broken, it means that you were put to the test and you didn’t fall apart.”

I have always believed that our mental health makes us who we are. Mental Health is just not the absence of mental illness; it’s the presence of resilience, coping skills and well-being that allows individuals to thrive in their personal and academic lives. Mental health in school education is crucial for students, educators, parents, and society as a whole. The NEP 2020’s emphasis on mental health and Socio-Emotional Learning (SEL), highlights the important role that schools play in promoting mental health. For students, it impacts their academic performance, emotional well-being and social interactions. The fact is pertinent that mental health awareness is finally becoming an important part of a school's function and curriculum. It’s important to understand the importance of working on a Child’s well-being during their education years. In the modern educational landscape acknowledgement of mental health is of paramount importance. Parents, teachers and all other stakeholders have a vital role to play in making the child strong not only physically but also mentally.

‘Students’ are the heart of any educational system. Students cannot learn until they feel safe and connected, and that takes time. Every child is born unique. So, we need to teach children to be resilient, to be able to handle criticism, to be affirmative, and to teach them life skills. A few years ago a student in my class changed drastically in a short period of time. I noticed that she no longer did her homework, and her appearance became dishevelled and disoriented. When I tried to speak to her, she was uncharacteristically distant and withdrawn.

As I had some training in mental health awareness, I was able to guide her to the right counsellor and finally in some time we could manage to sort out her challenges and bring her back to normal. We’ve all had our struggles but unsound mental health isn’t the end. There are simple ways of getting through. All beginnings start with ‘You’ is what we have to teach our students. We all need affirmations and celebrations. We should teach our students to Harness the Power of a Healthy Mind. If they are feeling overwhelmed, they should be taught not to hesitate to seek professional help. Professional help like school counsellors can help students better manage their mental health and well-being as well as support their peers who may be struggling. Knowing about Mental health is an important skill for all educators, as they are the first line of defence for their students.

Teachers play an important role in building and maintaining the emotional climate of the classroom. The effectiveness of classroom management and supporting a student’s diverse needs depends on their mental well-being. Schools that prioritise mental health provide and support teachers with the resources, training and support that they need to cultivate resilience and promote self-care. By fostering a culture of empathy and understanding schools can empower teachers to recognise and respond to students’ mental health concerns sensitively and effectively.

Training teachers to be the base level counsellors and supporting and equipping them including thorough referral pathways reduce the likelihood of mental health concerns. Each affirmation carries the potential to spark conversations, change perspectives, and ultimately raise awareness about Mental Health. Investing in teacher’s well-being improves job satisfaction and retention and also enhances the overall quality of instruction and student outcomes.

Another essential partner in promoting Mental Health is parents. Schools should involve parents to facilitate collaboration, communication, and support between home and school environments. Involving parents through regular workshops and counselling sessions equips them with skills and knowledge to identify early signs of stress in their children. By nurturing a culture of partnership and shared responsibility, schools and parents can work together to create a supportive ecosystem for students’ mental well-being.

The role of policymakers in school mental health is significant too. This involves integrating mental health into the curriculum, expanding access to counselling, and introducing and implementing policies to remove discrimination and stigma. They can ensure that students thrive in a supportive environment by collaborating with stakeholders at different levels and implementing evidence-based strategies for promoting mental health and well-being in schools.

Investing in mental health in school is not just a matter of educational policy but a moral responsibility. It’s OKAY to not be OKAY and it is always OK to take a break. It doesn't have to be a whole day, but it can be a few moments here and there to check in with you.

Think of life like a long-distance race. If you sprint at the very beginning, you're going to get burned out. You may even hurt yourself by pushing too hard. But if you pace yourself, if you take it slow, sometimes intentionally, and if you push yourself other times, you are sure to be way more successful.

‘We cannot stop the waves but we can teach our children to surf through!’ Ultimately, prioritising mental health in school education fosters a healthier and more productive society by equipping the students with the skills to cope with challenges and thrive in life.

In the symphony of life, let us heed the call to prioritise mental health in education, for in nurturing the well-being of our students, we sow the seeds of a healthier, more harmonious society.

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