Mental health Education

Stigma-free campus

St. Mira’s College, Pune, has initiated a programme to normalise the talk around mental health, making it easier for students to seek help

The Asian Journal of Psychiatry recently reported that 37.7% of students suffer from moderate depression in Indian universities. India also has one of the highest student suicide rates in the world, and according to the National Crime Records Bureau, on an average, a student commits suicide every hour. Students undergo a range of emotions such as stress, anger, anxiety induced by factors including peer pressure, academics, phone addiction, body image issues, relationship issues, and loneliness, thus triggering thoughts about suicide and self-harm.

This is the prime reason why a student’s mental wellbeing is of the utmost importance. Unfortunately, mental health awareness in higher education is facing a crisis, and there is a need for a programme that is primarily preventive in nature and organically integrates as an intervention model.

This is exactly what St. Mira’s College, Pune, has done. The college’s Department of Psychology has initiated a programme for students that is run by trained counsellors and clinical psychologists to support and nurture their wellbeing.

Inclusive

It all started with a survey that was conducted to explore existing beliefs, help-seeking behaviours and mental wellbeing concerns faced by its students. “As many as 860 students participated in an online survey which reflected that a majority of them were facing several mental health concerns and they stated that they would access services if the college provided it,” explains Prof. Gidwani, Principal.

The curriculum of the programme was developed keeping the survey results in mind. It features a three-tier approach of awareness sessions, group therapy and individual counselling. The programme has been integrated into the existing curriculum, across streams and classes.

The awareness sessions are primarily designed to make students aware of what they are experiencing and critical signs of distress to be noted so that they know when to seek help. Students are active participants in organising sessions and are encouraged to create a supportive environment and create safer classrooms which are free of judgement and stigma.

Prof. Jaya Rajgopalan, head of the psychology department, asserts that a healthy college is where students feel empowered to take control of their daily routine, feel involved and are able to work towards personal wellbeing and growth. This requires teachers and staff with the right knowledge, skills and resources. “Sessions are conducted for teachers to ensure that they have the necessary information and knowledge to identify students and reduce stigma and discrimination in classrooms. And that is the reason why this programme is a major component of the entire academic year for our college,” she says.

Having full-time counsellors and psychologists on campus, readily accessible to students, has helped in breaking the stigma around mental health and seeking help. Today, the programme is well-integrated into the college’s system with corridor talks, small conversations in the canteen, and so on, making it more student-centric and helping them normalise the idea of mental wellbeing.

Important three

There are three major arms to the mental wellbeing programme: Promotion, Prevention and Intervention.

Mental health promotion is any action taken to maximise mental health and wellbeing among students. College platforms such as notice boards and classroom discussions are used to promote the need and importance of mental wellbeing. The need of the hour is programmes that support and strengthen coping strategies, that promote awareness and acceptance of cultural diversity.

Prevention refers to interventions that occur before the initial onset of a disorder to prevent its development. The focused group therapy sessions and workshops aim at identifying risk factors for a student’s mental health and enhancing protective factors such as peer support, sense of trust, and so on, that promote mental wellbeing.

Early intervention are appropriate and specifically target people displaying early signs and symptoms of a mental health issue to enable timely, effective and appropriate treatment.

Those who want to reach out for help related to stress, mental wellbeing and even exam tips can can contact the Fortis Exam Helpline +918376804102.

For more helplines, visit https://www.youthkiawaaz.com/2015/10/mental-health-helpline/

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Printable version | Apr 5, 2020 7:34:13 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/education/stigma-free-campus/article30887308.ece

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