Mental health: Schools look beyond counsellors to get students talking


Some are organising group activities to help children be more open about their problems

An increasing number of private schools in the city are exploring non-traditional avenues to help teachers assess the mental well-being of their students and encourage an atmosphere where issues can be addressed openly. Rather than simply relying on traditional counselling sessions, school managements are organising participatory group discussions and story-telling sessions. `

‘Case studies’

In an attempt to make the subject matter relevant, some schools have asked teachers to use “case studies” from newspapers that high school students can debate on. Such sessions, said principals, help teachers get a better idea of the mental well-being of their students and identify those who may need extra attention.

Dakshayini Kanna, principal of Harvest International School which has introduced such activities, said there was enough anecdotal evidence to point to the fact that not all college students make the transition to adulthood smoothly. “We want to address issues even before it reaches the stage of the counsellor. We want our students to open up and talk about both the academic pressure they may be facing and any stress points in their personal lives. That is the first step,” she said.

Teachers hope that these group activities and debates will help students become more conscious of their state of mind. More often than not, students are hesitant to approach a counsellor as they see it as a weakness or something to be ashamed of. “Such activities may help them be more open to seeking professional help without feeling stigmatised,” she added. One “heart-warming” trend Ms. Kanna has observed is empathy among classmates. There have been instances where students come to the counsellor to discuss a problem their friend may be facing but is hesitant to reach out.

Some schools set time aside for students to participate in one-act plays, and conduct shows where they address various mental issues they think are important to their lives such as coping with academic and peer pressure, and anxiety, among others.

Shanthinikethana School in Girinagar has also adopted similar strategies. Its founder, Sumanth Narayan, said group activities have helped students be more open about their problems during counselling sessions.

Preethi Mathur, a counsellor at Delhi Public School North, Bengaluru, said they help students put their emotions into words, and encourage them to process what they are going through.

Starting conversations

“Last month, we conducted a survey among students on mental health as well as activities such as role-play and jam sessions related to mental health,” said Ms. Mathur. The school included these activities as part of their assessment and Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation (CCE) activities were around the same topic. “Rather than being preachy, we need to start conversations around issues. We have also been screening several films in our school that deal with mental illnesses and talk about bullying in school,” she said.

Parents and students have welcomed these initiatives as they encourage students to look beyond their textbooks and examinations.

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Printable version | Dec 9, 2019 10:47:02 PM |

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