Delhi Government’s School Mental Health Initiative Unveils Crucial Insights into Children’s Mental Well-being

Delhi Government's School Mental Health

Engaging Art Classes and Counseling Sessions Illuminate Challenges Faced by Delhi’s School-Going Children

In a concerted effort to address the mental health needs of students in Delhi government schools, specialized sessions led by Counselor Lovisha Arora incorporating engaging art classes were held over the last year.

This initiative aimed at enabling students to understand and effectively manage their emotions through it.

Findings from these sessions have offered invaluable perspectives about the mental health landscape for school going children in Delhi.

Under one such project called School Mental Health, the Delhi government partnered with Institute of Human Behaviour and Allied Sciences (IHBAS) to introduce primary mental health services in schools run under Directorate of Education.

The objective was two-fold: Providing crucial mental support and obtaining comprehensive insights into problems faced by students from Class VI to XII particularly around mental health issues and bullying.

Lovisha Arora along with 20 counselor psychologists received training held at IHBAS conducted by clinical psychologists before being deployed into a school in New Delhi district.

During the course of a one-year project, these counselors spoke with over twenty thousand students from twenty different schools. These findings also identify significant changes that occurred after the pandemic.

“After returning to school from pandemic, there was a noticeable surge in anger, screen addiction, anxiety disorders among children.”

“Instances of self-harm alongside alcohol and tobacco consumption as well as absenteeism cases became common,” emphasized Lovisha Arora.

Though the idea of School Mental Health project had been considered since 2016, it gained momentum during this pandemic time.

“The children have already been through difficult times witnessing loss of parents, family members and a major part of their childhood” noted an official from state health department.

Challenges Unveiled Through Counseling Sessions

Insights garnered through her sessions were shared by Counsellor Simran Kaur; she exposed bullying concerns among children, struggles to concentrate on studies as well as challenges when building interpersonal relations with family and friends.

Simran involved students in a painting exercise that enabled them to apply colors for different emotions such as anger, sadness, happiness, fear, disgust and shame in a touching activity.

“A lot of children painted their palms red mainly symbolizing anger which indicates that they were struggling with this emotion for a long time,” she said.

A total of around 200 children across different schools have been referred to higher mental health care centers according to Dr. Aparna Goyal, an assistant professor at IHBAS who was among the team that implemented the project.

However, only a fraction out of these cases about 6-7 followed through with the recommended sessions.

Root Causes of Anxiety Among Schoolchildren

Dr. Aparna also highlighted reasons why anxiety takes place in students from different class groups. She noted that anxiety is a frequent occurrence especially among students from classes X, XI and XII concerning their careers, board exams and relationships.

“This is the age when one starts exploring about life and adulthood which comes with its own set of problems” she mentioned.

For students in Classes VI to IX, challenges revolved around maintaining healthy peer relationships with bullying being a significant source of anxiety.

Lack of communication between children and parents was observed as one common issue especially amongst low income groups leading to anger and anxiety among children.

It emphasized on “These kids lack meaningful conversations with their parents who are busy making ends meet or are overburdened with work. Parental support for mental health issues remains inadequate.” Dr. Aparna argued.

Bullying and Mental Health: How Environment Affects Children

According to Dr. Aparna, harsh upbringings, exposure to domestic violence and excessive screen time affect bullying behavior in kids.

“Children who live in an unsafe environment with too much of it on the screens, including violent movies and pornography are more prone to either being bullied or becoming bullies,” she explained.

While the number of bullies decreased among the counselors, there were many bullying victims among their clients.

Dr. Aparna pointed out how derogatory language and insensitivity from both peers and teachers affected children with mental health challenges.

“Mental health cases often attract bullies who keep using derogatory terms that lead to prolonged absenteeism,” she concluded.

This initiative has revealed a significant necessity for better awareness, sensitivity and comprehensive support mechanisms in educational institutions as well as families within Delhi, India to handle the intricate range of mental health problems faced by school going children.

The initiative’s insights provide a clarion call for proactive measures, fostering open dialogue and creating safe spaces for nurturing a healthy mind for future generations.

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