Every parent dreams of seeing their child making it big in the world. They choose the best school, tutor, and facilities for their children. Parents do not hesitate to spend when it comes to their children’s future. However, sometimes parents remain unaware of the mental health of their child. Overlooking a child’s mental & emotional health can sometimes lead to dire consequences. Stress is generally associated with middle-aged adults, but mental health for students is crucial. We often say that a child’s mind is like potter’s clay, and we can shape them as we want. As teachers and parents, we try to give children the best environment and facilities, but sometimes it is not the best they need. There are many mental health challenges among children between the age group of 10-19 that we miss out on. There have been many instances where a child also had to lose his life. In the US, a child took an extreme step when his father could not get him his favourite toy. This incident happened during the pandemic lockdown in the USA. The child’s parents pampered him, but he could not share the stress of being alone in lockdown and succumbed to the emotional stress.
The question here arises again, do young children face mental health challenges? And many other questions like why mental health is important or what is the importance of mental health?
Mental Health of Students in India
A student of IIT-B recently committed suicide allegedly due to bullying based on caste. We are talking about an incident in one of India’s premier colleges. Imagine the mental health status or emotional turmoil that this child had to go through. Though we have progressed as a society, Mental Health for students is still a subject that has not been discussed much.
Counsellors have been included in schools lately, but that is mostly restricted to tier-1 cities. A student’s mental health is still measured by limited parameters like;
- Peer Pressure
- Exam Stress
- Career choices related to stress
Teachers and parents generally fail to point out the pain points of a student’s emotional well-being that directly impacts the mental health in students.
Importance of Mental Health in Students
The best thing about mental health is that it’s treatable, but one must admit and accept that they are struggling with mental turmoil. Everyone struggles with some or other mental stress at some point in life. But, stress at a young age is not at all healthier for anyone. It impacts not only the future but also the present. We must understand why mental health is important for students. A student with a focused mental status knows how to handle stress. Good mental health helps a student succeed and deal with life problems without stress. We have seen that mental health in students is a growing concern across India. The stress of studies combined with the struggles of teenagers and adolescents impact the overall mental health of a student. Sometimes the stressors directly impact the academic graph of a student. Students look for remedies on how to focus on their studies while they should be looking out for the key to struggling mental health for students.
What Impacts Mental Health in Students?
As per UNICEF data, every 1 in 7 students in India (18-24 years) face mental health issues like depression, anxiety, or disinterest. What’s alarming is that India lacks the required number of counsellors or psychiatrists who can handle mental health for students. A study shows that there are only 0.75 psychiatrists available per 1 00 000 patients, while the recommended number is three psychiatrists per 1 00 000.
In today’s fast-paced world, nothing is constant. There is so much happening around that a student tends to lose focus. Bullying is a major factor that can lead a student towards declining mental well-being, but other factors are now adding to the stress in students and hampering their mental health.
As the times change, so is the importance of mental health in students. It is not just exams that stress or tear a student’s emotional zeal; a lot goes into their life. The other factors can be;
- Parental Pressure
- Sexual Abuse
- Lack of focus
- Sexual Orientation
- Substance Use
- Social Disconnect
Of course, peer pressure and bullying are the key factors in determining the growing mental health of a young mind and its repercussions. However, we must not forget that the societal walls we have created around us have become prison bars for students with unique personalities.
Mental Health in Students: Warning Signs to look for Challenges of Mental Health
As a parent, we love our children unconditionally, but we overlook the alert signs when our little one struggles with stress or mental health issues. Mental health for students is of utmost importance. As a parent, we must keep a vigil on the changing behaviour of our children. Though a child, while growing up, shows many changes both physically and mentally, there are many warning signs that a parent can notice and take cognizance of the situation;
- Disinterest in favourite hobbies
- Lack of sleep Or
- Sleeping too much
- Getting aggressive
- Sudden drop in grades
- Not hanging out with friends or peers
- Less interaction with family
- Not interested in going out
- Complaining tiredness or unexplained body aches
- Starting of substance use
- Eating a lot or not eating at all
Most parents might ignore these signs as part of growing up or the phase of puberty, but one must remain wary when one sees any sudden behavioural changes in your child.
What Role Can Parents Play?
Now, if you have been acceptant enough to understand the seriousness of mental health, you must be ready to face the challenges of mental health in students. As a parent, you must stand with your child while they deal with it.
- Be observant: Your child might not want to say it at first, but as a parent, be observant of any warning sign.
- Encourage your child: When it comes to struggling mental health for students there is no indirect way. It will help if you encourage your child to speak up about their apprehensions, inhibitions, and insecurities.
- Avoid putting pressure on your child: If your child is not getting good grades, putting pressure on him or scolding him will only worsen their mental Health. Avoid adding to your child’s burden.
- Be a listener: Always listen to your child’s problem. Do not consider any of their issues as childish or irrelevant. If they confide in you, make sure you do not judge them.
- Become their pillar of strength: A person is most capable enough to handle mental stress if they have the emotional support of their loved ones. These days many mental health challenges are faced by students. Do not be strict with them. Stand with them as their strength.
- Offer professional help: Sometimes, a student can beat a struggling mental health challenge with the help of an expert only. Do not hesitate to provide that help to your child.
- Create a happy environment at home: Home should be a place where one finds solace. However, sometimes we fail to create or provide that environment. For your child’s mental health, ensure that your child gets the best environment at home.
How Can Teachers Help?
Teachers spend a major part of the day with students. Teachers become our confidants, guide, mentor, and friend as we spend time in school. However, sometimes even teachers fail to identify the signs of troubling mental health in students. Though teachers are trained to focus on the holistic grooming of students, in a class of more than 20 students, it is not easy to focus on everyone. Then, how can they help in bettering the mental health for students? They can start by occasionally interacting with students by creating a conducive communication bridge between them and students. Other important steps they can follow are;
- Encourage interaction: A teacher’s job goes beyond teaching a student. The job also includes nurturing a well-groomed personality. Mental Health issues among students have been increasing at an alarming rate. There have been many instances when students have taken extreme steps. All that could have been averted if teachers or parents were more vigilant or aware of the warning signs. Here, interacting with students works best. Sometimes, a student opens their heart to teachers rather than their parents. Teachers need to be available for students.
- Training/workshops: Now, there can be a student who aces in academics and still suffers from depression, and you fail to identify the symptoms on time. What do you do then? As a teacher, you can get trained by mental health experts and learn the nuances. It will not help you as a teacher, but it will mostly help the students stuck in the web of confusion, frustration, and stress.
- Talk to parents: Regarding mental health for students, teacher-parent collaboration can work wonders. Sometimes the root cause of mental health issues in students is not far. Any issues in the family can only be identified if teachers and parents are connected.
- Counselors in school: Having a counsellor in schools helps maintain conducive mental health in students. A counsellor understands mental health deeply and can help students struggle. Though some schools have dedicated counsellors, the huge gap in the number of counsellors over children is yet to be bridged.
- Encourage Class Discussions: There are many issues that a student can face when they are growing up. Adolescence or teenage is the major turning point in everybody’s life. This is the phase when most students face existential and other issues. If, as a teacher, we discuss issues like bullying, peer pressure, sexual abuse, homosexuality, etc., the students will get motivated and speak openly about their fears.
- Yoga & Meditation: Everyone knows about the benefits of yoga for students and the benefits of meditation for students. Yoga and meditation are generally encouraged to enhance the concentration of students in their studies. But, these exercises can work wonders regarding mental health for students. A calm mind and an active physique are a winning combo if we talk about mental health for students.
Mental health in students is a major concern for parents, teachers, and society. A young mind needs to be chiselled well to nurture their talent. Conducive mental health is the key to a happy and content life. Efforts to maintain a healthy mental status begin from day one of human life. If any of your students or your children show any signs, talk to them now. Even if they look fine, open that window of open conversation, so they don’t lose focus.