What Schools Should Be Teaching You!

Back in the year 2014, I graduated from school. Graduating from an Indian school with CBSE as the examination board, I spent most of my class 11 and 12 struggling with the syllabus, preparing for exams, hopping between coaching classes, tuition and school. Little did I have time for myself, little did I engage in co-curricular activities. And my mental health was a MESS! I was dealing with peer pressure, body image issues, low self-esteem and loneliness. And the situation was quite hopeless because I didn’t know who to reach out for help!

Fast-forwarding 7 years, and here we are in the year 2021. I thought and I assumed schools culture and environment would have improved. Teachers, administration and students would have been a little more considerate towards mental health and well-being. I hoped discussions around mental health and well-being would be as common as discussions around exams, classes and subjects! But, NOTHING HAS CHANGED.

I ended up conducting webinars with a few school around mental health and well-being. What did I notice? School children are experiencing issues such as peer pressure, bullying, body image issues, identity crisis, low self-esteem, issues with sexuality, parental conflict, academic pressure and the list is never ending. The worst part is, they don’t know how to deal with them. They don’t know who to approach. They have school counselors, but there is a lot of hesitance in reaching out to them. And in some schools, the counselor is more like a moral police.

I keep saying this, over and over again, adolescence is a very sensitive stage. There are so many changes happening around; social changes, changes in the body; there are emotional and psychological changes. There is so much going on! And the result of this is that the students (or adolescents) are overwhelmed.

This image highlights what areas should be covered in schools’ curriculum

How do we help them? First and foremost, inform them about the resources available to them. Students should be aware of people, agencies, websites, etc. they can reach out to when they are going through an issue. Second, having a a well trained, empathetic and independent school counselors. Schools should also arrange for life skills trainings and skill building workshops wherein the students can learn about problem solving, resilience, conflict management, dealing with peer pressure, stress management, mindfulness and coping skills.

It’s high time that schools stop emphasizing on academic success and start focusing on student’s well-being. Good mental health and well-being are as important as academic success. These factors will help students flourish and fulfill their highest potential.

What do you think? How can we improve mental health and well-being in schools? How can we include life skills in school’s curriculum? Would love to know what you have to say!

This article is based on my observations during my workshops and webinars with school students. This article doesn’t generalise the mental health scenario in schools in India. I am sure there are schools which prioritise their students’ well-being.

Thank you for reading!

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Devika Khanna

Psychologist | Trainer | Mental Health Advocate | I write about mental health and well-being