The time for introducing a mental health curriculum in schools is here. Based on our interactions with students as well as teachers and parents, with whom we have been working for almost two decades now as a part of the Fortis School Mental Health Program, we have been able to understand the kind of problems faced by children and adolescents from their perspective, and more so, we have also come to recognize that life skills training, indeed, is the true need of the hour.It is even more important for us to recognize the role of mental health in the contemporary world, considering that depression has now been identified as the single largest illness globally. Further, there exists a significant lack of resources, with a significant shortage of mental health experts! Salient features for Mental Health Curriculum for Schools–
A mental health curriculum ideally needs to run parallel to the existing educational paradigm within the school system, creating awareness about mental illnesses. Mental health needs to be given the same significance which is typically attached to general health related information, in terms of hygiene, nutrition, and education about diseases.
The second objective is to reduce students’ hesitation to seek help – both by promoting awareness and reducing the stigma surround it.If we can help students identify their own emotions and encourage them to talk about their feelings openly, then we can give them the support they require.
The third objective of introducing a mental health curriculum within the schools is to encourage help seeking behaviour, especially with regards to mental health. It is through the training of the young children and adolescents during their prime years, wherein they get to not just improve their own psychological well-being by instilling various life skills as a part of their holistic personality development, but also get to recognize the significance of mental health as an integral aspect of overall health and well-being.
Being mindful of such an inclusion does not necessarily entail an additional number of academic classes or teaching hours, but instead could involve more experiential and fun based learning techniques which are enjoyable for both the teachers as well as the students, thereby serving a two-fold purpose of equipping the young minds with necessary life skills to improve their overall quality of life in the future, as well as to help build their resilience and Empower with Life Skills to deal with the world and its challenges in the coming years of their lives.
As a conclusion, it is clear that we need a curriculum that imparts life skills to deal with social pressures, which encourages help-seeking behavior, which reduces discrimination and stigma. And this curriculum is not to be enforced by textbooks and exams, but rather by sensitizing and shaping attitudes and beliefs to promote positive mental health. Therefore, such a mental health curriculum is a necessary step to help all of us to create a sensitized approach within the society in order to ensure greater receptivity as well as understanding of mental health related concerns.