‘Curriculum with focus on mental health will benefit children’

Making a point: Journalist Faye D’Souza (left) moderates a panel discussion on ‘Inclusion of Differences’ at a mental health conference in the city on Friday.

Making a point: Journalist Faye D’Souza (left) moderates a panel discussion on ‘Inclusion of Differences’ at a mental health conference in the city on Friday.   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement


Students grappling with suicidal thoughts, separation of parents, discrimination over sexuality and sexual preferences: experts

Over 300 people attended a conference on the importance of mental health awareness in the Indian education system on Friday. Titled ‘Be The Change’, the event was aimed at teachers, therapists and mental health professionals associated with schools and colleges.

Journalist Faye D’Souza moderated two panel discussions on ‘Inclusion of Differences’ and ‘Prioritising Mental Health in Educational Institutions’. The panellists included Zirak Marker, child and adolescent psychiatrist, Aditya Birla Integrated School; Mala Mehta, special educational needs coordinator at Aditya Birla World Academy; Kate Currawala, founder president, Maharashtra Dyslexia Association; and Usha Pandit, founder of Mindsprings. The event was hosted by Aditya Birla Education Trust.

‘Diverse jobs on offer’

Ms. D’Souza attributed the high rates of depression among millennials to the intense competition in the educational system. She said parents should make children aware of the variety of jobs on offer so that they can choose their own career path. She said, “Children need not take up something that will give them undue pressure. What we as a society fail to process is that depression and anxiety are often outcomes of larger issues like bullying, sexual abuse, verbal abuse, which have sprung from our society.”

Ms. Mehta said most parents do not want to accept that their child is undergoing a mental health issue. “There is a gatekeeping policy in schools. Whenever a child does not conform to societal standards of behaviour, they are called ‘specially abled’. It could be said in the most sensitive and positive way, but for a parent it is still a tag and their child is still being branded,” she said.

In the second panel discussion, Mr. Marker said if the World Health Organization says there is one suicide attempt every three seconds in India, then we have a problem. He said, “There should be a curriculum addressing only mental health in educational institutions. This will make it easier for students dealing with suicidal thoughts, separation of parents or discrimination over sexuality and sexual preferences.”

‘Tweak grading system’

Mr. Pandit said persuasive nurturing by parents, teachers and friends kills the natural gifts of children. “I strongly feel mental healthcare will receive the regard it deserves only if our educational system awards students for higher emotional quotient, not higher grades in a subject like mathematics,” he said. Ms. Currawala said inclusion should begin at home. “If one has a child with a hearing disability, the family members should learn sign language to communicate with them,” she said.

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Printable version | Jan 22, 2020 7:11:37 PM |

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