All You Need to Know About Mental Health Guidelines Issued by NCERT

22 December 2022
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The post-pandemic world saw a huge growth in awareness around mental health in India. Efforts are being made to aid research and facilitate the destigmatization of all mental health-related conditions in the country. However, the mental health of students in India remained unacknowledged. The mental health of students in India gets sidelined somewhere in the endless competition to be better. A study published by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) stated that around 12-13% of students in India suffered from psychological, behavioural and emotional conditions. Needless to say, it was high time to take proactive efforts to battle this invisible epidemic that continued to spread silently.

Recently, the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) guidelines for mental health were issued directing schools to raise mental health awareness among students and establish an advisory panel to support them. Here is everything you need to know about it.

What is the NCERT?
The NCERT is an autonomous organisation that was established in 1961 by the Government of India to facilitate educational policies in schools. It ensures that all textbooks and other academic reading materials follow an established pattern and focus on the overall development of young learners. The body also proactively participates in and promotes research relating to school education. Through collaborations with NGOs, foreign bodies and other training facilities, the organisation ensures that Indian educational systems are constantly evolving with the modern time.

Why are these guidelines important?
The guidelines issued by the NCERT came about after a national mental health survey in 2022 was conducted. The 'Mental Health and Well-being of School Students' was undertaken by the Mandorpan Cell to assess their mental health and what were the major stressors around them. The subject size was about 3.79 lakhs and the population represented various age groups and regions from all over India. The study revealed that they experienced anxiety due to their academics and it continued to get worse as they got older. Lastly, around 40% of students also experienced mood swings during the lockdowns throughout the pandemic. The self-report questionnaires answered by the students bring so many unknown mental health problems to the surface. Students have reported feeling low self-esteem, lack of concentration, peer pressure and an absence of motivation to study. At this juncture, the guidelines imposed by the council can help these issues from escalating by building a safe and supportive learning space for the students.

Highlights from the NCERT Mental Health Guidelines, 2022

  1. Focus on school environments
    The NCERT mental health guidelines focus on age-specific and gender-specific mental health programs to be conducted over frequent intervals. Furthermore, since most students found themselves safer to confide in their peers, the body encouraged schools to be the primary focus of this program. Ensuring that schools become a trustworthy environment for children so students can be honest with their friends and teachers is crucial. Since students spend a large part of their day in school, it’s also easier for authorities to detect self-harm, substance use and other mental or emotional difficulties in children.

  2. Teacher training
    The educational unit has also proposed training for teachers so they can be more empathetic towards the needs of their students. This will also include equipping them to identify early signs in students for separation anxiety, anxiety, low moods, learning disabilities and other such issues. This can be further supported by routine self-report tests that provide a more quantitative measure of what a student is going through. The idea is to promote early identification since timely intervention can ensure good mental health and well-being of school students. Apart from that, authorities have been asked to keep an eye out for bullying or harassment and take even minor incidents seriously.

  3. Building a safe environment
    The NCERT guidance and counselling agenda aims to keep the process as confidential as possible so that it doesn't hinder the students' willingness to open up and share. The goal is to instil a nurturing environment through proactive education around mental health and discussions that encourage children to open up.

These reforms still have a long way to go and their implementation can only be as good as the awareness among a school's staff. It's no secret that there is an unhealthy amount of education stress on students in India. However, this is a major step towards building a positive approach to mental health problems in India, especially in young adults. There is hope that this step will eventually lead to a major destigmatization of these issues and encourage a more empathetic education system in India.

You can also read our blog which focuses on some activities you can do to keep your children's mental health in check. Click here to know more.

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