The Delhi High Court on Monday issued notice to the Delhi government on a petition seeking to implement the Mental Healthcare Act 2017 at schools and colleges for the benefit of the students.
A Bench of Chief Justice D.N. Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh also sought response from the Institute Of Human Behaviour & Allied Sciences on a petition by Devina Singh, a 17-year-old student, seeking to mandate the presence of clinical psychiatrists, counsellors, social workers and mental health professionals in all schools and colleges.
The petition relied on the National Mental Health Survey of India 2015-16 to argue that children and adolescents are vulnerable to mental disorders, and that current health systems do not prioritise mental health.
The petition also stated that Covid- 19 pandemic has had a huge psychological impact on the students in schools.
“Mental health in children manifests in many ways, from insomnia to eating disorders to emotional swings to self-harming, all of which can be treated given the right interventions,” it said.
“But, in many homes, disturbing behaviour patterns in young person are rarely seen as warning signs; rather they are dismissed as just acting up or, in young children, being extra difficult,” the plea said.
It stated that “stress, anxiety, fear, panic, depression, insomnia, isolation, disconnectedness, loneliness, trauma, lack of self-confidence, positivity and resilience etc. are issues widely prevalent in students, however, the same go unnoticed and unattended”.
The plea said studies have revealed that most mental disorders emerge by early adulthood and are associated with a substantial delay in treatment.
“Untreated or inadequately treated mental illness is associated with progression to more complex disorders, school dropout, addiction, and self-harm etc.,” it said adding, “Thus, schools and universities need to take a lead role in the development of an integrated system of student mental health care”.
The plea said that persons with mental disorders are not only known to be associated with a wide range of social and societal problems but are also associated with a considerable amount of stigma in Indian society, leading to neglect and marginalisation.
It said that though the National Mental Health programme was initiated in the early 1980s in India, however, mental health has been often accorded a lower priority amidst competing health and social priorities.
The high court will hear the petition again on September 16.