ERODE: Even as the governments and other stakeholders in the education sector have been introducing various interventions and keeping the discourse on the significance of the mental health of students simmering, the constantly changing social conditions have also been posing newer challenges. On the eve of World Mental Health Day, TNIE spoke to psychologists, academicians, and educators, and all of them emphasised the interventions at a young age as an individual’s secondary stage of socialisation process begins in school.
Referring to the World Health Organization report that around 10-12 per cent of children and adolescents worldwide experience mental disorders and half of all mental illnesses begin by the age of 14, a sociologist said that schools are in the first line of defence for disorders. In TN, the government’s education policy underscores the need for guidance and psychological counselling for students. In 2013, the State Council of Educational Research and Training launched a mobile counselling centre equipped with psychologists to help students handle stress, treat psychological challenges, and improve academic performances.
A psychologist associated with the initiative, M Nirmal Kumar said, “With the help of district education departments, schools that require support will be identified. The counselling would be either given to a group of students or individuals. Over the years, we have seen a positive change among students.” In 2018, the School Education Department launched a 24-hour helpline - 14417 - to remotely clarify doubts, guide, and counsel students.
Even the CBSE schools had brought out guidelines instructing schools to recruit counsellors and special educators to guide students. Secretary of CBSE Schools Management Association P Ashok Shankar said, “The presence of special educators at each school will enhance the scope of inclusive education. Schools must abide by the guideline to get affiliation.”
Having counselled students during the pandemic, Clinical Psychologist Karthikayani Murugan said, "Her focus during the uncertain situation was to help students reduce stress, distract them from getting addicted to gadgets, and ensure a good relationship with their family members. Activities like breathing, mindfulness exercise, games help children to maintain a sound mind."
Citing the National Crime Records Bureau report on student suicides, another Clinical Psychologist V Hema said that not all who end their lives have a mental illness. "If the students receive timely assistance, suicidal thoughts can be brought under control."
State Platform for Common School System (Tamil Nadu) General Secretary Prince Gajendra Babu urged the government to introduce a holistic chapter on physical and mental health to spread awareness among students.
"The government can form a committee, comprising clinical psychologists and child rights activists, to form a syllabus for health education," he said.