Main menu


Is the NEP equipped to deal with mental health issues among school children? Here's a reality check

featured image

The National Education Policy (NEP), 2020, calls for the creation of a comprehensive, 360-degree and holistic report for each student that reflects in great detail their progress and the individuality of each learner in cognitive, affective and psychomotor.

The NEP also suggests giving teachers more freedom in choosing pedagogical elements, allowing them to instruct students in the way they find most effective. Teachers will also emphasize social-emotional learning, which is essential to the overall development of each student.

Additionally, NEP 2020 addressed physical and mental health issues by promoting community involvement in the school system and well-trained social workers and counsellors. It is about mental health coverage in India’s new education policy. But is the approach holistic enough? Is education policy capable of dealing with the escalating cases of depression and suicide among college students? Let’s be honest; Talking passionately about mental health will not be enough until some dynamic measures on the ground are adopted.

Understanding mental health

Mental health has been the buzzword for a long time, especially after the COVID outbreak and subsequent isolation. The more people experienced reality themselves, the more they could understand that mental health issues are “real.” They are deadlier than physical aids due to their subtle ways of destroying the will to live.

But why does this even happen? To understand this phenomenon, we must understand our world. Since the creation of the World Wide Web (WWW), modern society has resembled a Web – a complex world where one has to prove one’s worth – offline and online. Society-induced pressures, unrealistic expectations, and competition have multiplied, but our capacity for empathy is shrinking to such an extent that we need catalysts even to feel joy.

This is where addictions come in. Drug addiction and mental health have a strong connection, and we often find students addicted to tobacco, alcohol, and other psychedelics from an early age.

The problem with mental health issues is that there is no specific cause or way to treat them. So while reducing school stress may seem like a good solution, it’s not the only cause of depression in middle school students. Mental health goes beyond education; it is based on your perception of yourself in society and as an individual based on your socio-economic status and everything under the radar – including your identity, dreams, relationships and habits .

Student suicide rate on the rise

Nearly 12,526 college students committed suicide in 2020, while 13,089 did so in 2021, according to the latest data from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB). Student suicides accounted for 7.40-7.60% of all suicides in the country between 2017 and 2019 and increased to 8.20% in 2020 and decreased slightly to 8% in 2021. In total, deaths by student suicide increased by 32.15. percent since 2017, according to The Indian Express.

The report fails to mention the specific causes of student suicides. However, the report notes that family issues were the leading cause of suicide in this age group. This explains the need to implement a mental health infrastructure beyond superficial awareness.

The warning signs of declining mental health in a child can also be overlooked most of the time, as talking about these issues can be difficult. At the same time, an average Indian is not equipped to deal with these situations. Teenagers may be under strong parental pressure to do well in school, be embarrassed by poor academic or social performance, or be bullied by peers. They may live in dysfunctional families that foster feelings of instability and insecurity, or they may experience parental abuse. Any one of these factors is enough to drive a student to depression.

A dynamic approach required

The infrastructure to deal with mental health issues among students is currently lacking in most schools, colleges and universities in India. Ideally, every higher education institution should have a mental health support system open to all students and linked to their culture and growth. In this regard, tutoring and coaching institutes urgently need a mental health support mechanism. Kota alone has witnessed 14 student deaths this year due to rigorous schedules, relentless testing, and a fiercely competitive environment focused on one goal: passing an exam. This approach needs to be reassessed, as its consequences are detrimental to students.

Intervention should not be limited to verbally trying to counsel a student; Instead, a practical solution is needed – one that offers a change in lifestyle and approach to life in general. The idea is not only to lift someone out of depression, but also to show them the path to self-improvement. This includes the strategic introduction of sport and yoga into the program and the adoption of innovative methods such as a “sleep period” or a “relaxation period” between classes to reduce the burden. In addition to making teachers aware of mental health issues, they also need to be trained in introductory psychology to deal with less severe cases independently.

The role of government in funding mental health initiatives must also be confronted with reality. The mental healthcare budget in India in 2020 was 0.05% of the total healthcare budget. This is far less than in developed countries, where the average proportion of the total health budget devoted to mental health is at least 5%. According to the Ministry of Health and Family Affairs, our country needs 13,500 psychiatrists and 20,250 clinical psychologists, but only 3,800 psychiatrists and 900 clinical psychologists are currently providing mental health services. This gap must be immediately addressed and rectified for a mentally better India.

India’s NEP 2020 target is to achieve a gross enrollment ratio (GER) of 50% by 2035. In this situation, the University Grants Commission’s 2018 proposal to establish a counselling” with teachers acting as counselors might not be enough. to manage the increasing number and complex mental health needs of students. In short, specialists are needed for implementation at the local level.

In conclusion, mental health issues are common among college students and can have long-term adverse effects on personal, social, academic, and professional outcomes if not addressed appropriately. As more and more students join tertiary institutions, it is a major public health concern for India. The best course of action is to provide structured, evidence-based mental health services in all higher education institutions across the country, including those in Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities. the NEP for schools that do not meet the minimum required mental health infrastructure and introduce workshops and training sessions for parents and teachers to raise awareness of mental health.

Read also : More than half of LGBTQ youth who came out at a young age have considered suicide, study finds