AMARVEER KAUR, Class XII, Cambridge International School Dasuya
Mental Health and well-being are critical aspects of education of students in teenage and beyond but this rarely gets the required attention. Mental health disorders like Schizophrenia, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, Bipolar Disorder,and Generalized Anxiety Disorder lead to frustrating conditions like nervous or mental breakdowns and individuals and families paid a heavy cost. This was relevant even during the pre-pandemic days but now when the education system has experienced drastic changes, the issue of mental health of students has become extremely important.
I am a student pursuing my Class XII science stream. Being closely associated with the education system I have observed several loopholes which are impacting the mental health status of the youngsters, especially teens. Children already coping with mental health conditions have been more vulnerable to the current changes like closure of schools, social distancing guidelines and isolation.
India accounts for 36.6 per cent of suicides globally, and this suicide rate has surpassed the maternal mortality rate as the leading cause of death among women and teenage girls aged 15-19 years? As per the National Mental Health Survey 2015-16, conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health & Neurosciences (NIMHANS), Bengaluru, under the purview of the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, it was revealed that 9.8 million teenagers in the age group 13-17 years suffer depression and other mental health disorders and are “in need of active intervention”.
WHO states that in India, (per 100,000 population) there are psychiatrists (0.3), nurses (0.12), psychologists (0.07) and social workers (0.07), while the desirable number is anything above 3 psychiatrists and psychologists per 100,000 population. It is astonishing to know the mental health expenditure per person in India is limited to 4 Rupees, which surely seems to be inadequate and niggard.
The foremost question that arises is: Why the students are in this mental health crisis and who is to blame for it? The lockdown has had a massive impact on the lives of students. They have experienced lifestyle changes, family-relationship issues and academic pressure, all in a span of one year. We appreciate the genius Intelligence Quotient (IQ) of a child but are hesitant or rarely speak of the Emotional Quotient (EQ). The poor score in this unmentioned subject is the main reason for deplorable stress management, lack of empathy,and weak communication skills among students. Society is yet not ready to accept these facts and expects more than what can be achieved. A student who was expected to take up the responsibilities of family in his twenties is now expected to handle the issues with maturity at sixteen or seventeen.
“When I was battling depression, honestly, I was scared to talk to someone, even my parents. I felt that they may take it as a joke,” shares 16-year-old Indian student Barinda Patel. “I started to hate myself. I had believed that I was not meant to be in this. I thought that I was a curse for my parents.”
The social distancing is now slowly changing into emotional distancing and isolation. Children are isolating themselves from their peers and the circle of friends. Nearly three in 10 (29%) parents admit that their child is “already experiencing harm” to his/her emotional or mental health because of social distancing and closures. The results are based on interviews with more than 1,200 parents of children in grades kindergarten to Class XII whose school is closed to in-person instruction.
Even though the education boards have announced cancellation of board exams, the stress on most students still prevails. Most of them are preparing for competitive exams like JEE, NEET, BITSAT, CLAT and many more. Generally, it is noted that competitive exam aspirants quit food and sleep before a few months of the exam because of tension. With such an encumbering education system how can the mental health of a student be assumed to stay perfect?
Taking steps to support students is essential during this challenging time, whether they’re learning remotely or in classrooms. That means more than simply making sure they learn from lesson plans and score well on standardized tests. We must be concerned about the social, emotional, and mental health needs of students in our community.
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