Growing up, children tackle life-altering physical, cognitive, emotional and social changes. Their minds are often imbibing more than they can process. It can prove to be a formidable task to cope with this sort of innate pressure, coupled with the rising problems of an ever-demanding external world. Apart from this superset of challenges, many children battle daunting and, at times, debilitating mental illnesses. Children are being diagnosed with mental disorders like depression, learning disabilities, anxiety disorders, autism spectrum disorders, disorders related to focus and attention, and many more. As unfortunate as it is that these issues exist among children, there is a silver lining: we are now mindful that these issues need to be tackled.
A child’s formative years are spent in school. Needless to say, the school’s faculty and infrastructure play just as important roles as the student’s peers and environment. It is imperative for every school to now enhance their approach towards helping children deal with and overcome mental illnesses.
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Here are five things the schools can do in order to establish a viable and strong system to help their students.
Sensitising the teaching and non-teaching staff towards mental illnesses
Gaining a robust understanding of the problem is the quickest way to solve it. We are just about realising the importance of identifying mental illnesses early in children and addressing them. And since it takes a village to raise a child, it is important for everyone’s buy-in, for everyone to be on board. Invite a speaker to conduct seminars with the teaching and the non-teaching staff, emphasising upon the legitimacy of the problem and consequences of not resolving it. If each staff member is aware of their role in supporting children, the system has a greater chance of delivering the desired results.
Invest in art/music therapy
Art and music have always proved to be an effective outlet for a wide spectrum of therapeutic applications. Apart from offering children a wholesome curriculum, art and music can specifically be applied in therapy sessions for extraordinary results. There are plenty of case studies and other material you can refer to for more details.
Get a therapist and a safe space
Arranging for a qualified, on-campus therapist is probably the first basic step towards developing the right support structure for mental illnesses in school. It’s no secret that children perform better in a safe environment, where they feel heard and can engage in activities that invoke a positive change in their state of mind.
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Know when to escalate
Children may start showing signs of mental illnesses quite early in life, as early as kindergarten. If the teaching staff is aware what to look for in an affected child, they will be able to escalate it effectively to the school authorities, to the parents and offer on-campus therapy. This support system will help the child adjust to the surroundings better, learn better, and maybe avert acute manifestations of these illnesses if the therapy begins early in the child’s life.
Know that a little research goes a long way
You could either set up a new system for children suffering from mental illnesses or look to upgrade an existing one. Either way, you can get a lot of information about the different types of programmes and initiatives by other schools, current updates regarding this issue by the Government of India, how your school can support the maximum number of disorders and illnesses displayed by children, and many such topics. Alternatively, you can get in touch with a team of qualified professionals who can help you figure things out. The fate of many young children rests in the hands of schools and educators, and hence these decisions are critical.
Children today are growing up in a very different world from the one we grew up in. The good news is we truly have come a long way. Schools are adopting policies and activities for helping their students tackle mental illnesses. Here’s why it’s a great idea – identifying the kids that display traits of mental illnesses early on and proactively referring them to therapy immediately is a great start for the child. If handled delicately by experts, the manifestations of these illnesses are bound to be limited. It’s the power teachers have over their students – a power to change their lives by not only imparting education but also playing a pivotal role in the child’s development and their right to a good quality life.
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