Heart-to-Heart Trajectory at Chitkara International School
Dr. Niyati Chitkara discusses promoting matters concerning mental well-being among school-going children.
As we strive to reach our optimal selves and navigate our ways through this roller coaster called life, we’re bound, as humans, to come face-to-face with varied distressing situations that impact our mental health in considerable proportions. Unfortunately, over the years, mental health issues have continued to be dealt with with lesser care for their non-physical and non-concrete existence, yet, sound mental health is indispensable to leading a wholesome life and matters highly for each one of us to think, act, and feel right.
Correspondingly, promoting matters concerning mental well-being among school-going children is of paramount importance for them to realize their full potential and achieve much in their lives.
And so, “education” that aims to help learners become their optimal selves, can’t be looked at, to the exclusion of the true mental and social well-being of children and must include relevant resources and programs that deal with mental health issues effectively.
At Chitkara International School (CIS), ‘mindfulness’ is strongly reinforced among learners through engaging and innovative strategies. So, whether it’s a 5-minute guided meditation or “fun” mini-breaks between classes, issues like ‘burnout’ are effectively handled within the classrooms, and monotony is successfully broken. Apart from the same, a functional Mental Health Programme is followed at CIS, which entails various facets like counseling sessions, mental well-being resources, classroom interventions, observance of World Mental Health Day, emphasis on physical fitness for enhanced mental health, Heart-to-Heart sessions, Happiness Quotient, and My Healthy Mind (SOS).
- a) One-on-One Counselling Sessions for Mental Wellbeing – Through its promising Office of School Counselling, the school offers customized one-on-one counseling sessions to its learners, where they’re encouraged to talk freely about their anxieties, stresses, and other inhibitions. Furthermore, the students are also apprised of the need of ensuring enhanced mental health along with the various ways through which they can ensure the same.
- b) Group Counselling Sessions and Expert Talks on Mental Health – Research suggests that good mental health is often and increasingly associated with enhanced creativity, learning, and productivity. Therefore, to promote good mental health among students, the Office of School Counselling at CIS also conducts group sessions for learners and encourages them to consciously track their mental well-being.
- c) Classroom Interventions – While a student may sit silently or appear active in a classroom, his body language speaks his mind. On this matter and keeping the comfort of students in mind, the dedicated teachers at Chitkara conduct various classroom interventions for students including guided meditation, sit-down/stand-up activities, etc. to ensure that the learners don’t feel exhausted from the day’s activities.
- d) Resources on Mental Health: Psytoons & Exam Helpline – For multiple reasons, exam stress may occur among students, which if left unchecked, may become highly detrimental. Similarly, children may face various personal challenges and might hesitate to share the same with others. All such circumstances among learners lead to a great decline in mental health, inducing them to develop anxiety disorders or signs of depression. In this regard, for the students in need, especially the ones who are highly reticent or don’t share easily, the school regularly shares relevant information and resources on mental health with them through its Learning Management System (SchoolPad), which include Psytoons (comic strip-like sequential arts on parenting and topics of importance), Exam Helpline (tips & tricks of beating the exam stress), and Articles (on topics like “meditation”, “mindfulness”, etc.).
- e) Observance of World Mental Health Day – Each year, the school dedicatedly observes World Mental Health Day, promoting the need and significance of ensuring sound mental health amongst its stakeholders and further apprising them of ways of doing the same. Not to mention, activities like “meditation”, “yoga”, “team-building”, etc. are arranged for children, which allow them to experience elevated mental health and the benefits thereof.
- f) Emphasis on Physical Health for Mental well-being – Looking at health in its entirety, the Office of Sports at CIS works in tandem with the Office of School Counselling to promote both the physical and mental fitness of children. In this regard, various sessions on yoga, meditation, free hand exercises, etc. are organized by the diligent sports team of CIS.
- g) Heart-to-Heart Sessions for All School Stakeholders – As stress levels escalated post the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, the school realized the need to ensure the mental well-being of not only the students but also the parents. Correspondingly, in the year 2020, the school initiated the “Heart-to-Heart” program, which allowed all school stakeholders (students, teachers, parents, and other staff members) to reach out to the Counsellors and Mental Health Experts at school and engage in candid conversations about their worries and troubles.
- h) Happiness Quotient in Curriculum – Besides stressing on Emotional Quotient, Spiritual Quotient, and Intelligence Quotient, the school quite committedly focuses on ensuring a high Happiness Quotient of students. In this regard, the Office of Academics and Co-curricular at CIS works towards arranging ‘happiness activities’ for children like activities on ‘acts of kindness, ‘the gratitude journal’, ‘nap time’ (junior wing), Frolic Fridays (11 and 12) and vocational skill building.
- i) “My Healthy Mind” SOS (Helpline) – Acknowledging the urgency of certain situations, the school further renders “My Healthy Mind” SOS (Helpline) to learners, where all school stakeholders (parents, students or teachers) can connect with the counselors or relevant team members, to share their anxieties or worries and seek guidance.
Beyond the shadow of a doubt, ensuring the good mental health of not just the students but also teachers and other members of the school remains paramount to the overall success of learners. Here, while a healthy mindset ensures healthy living, it also equips youngsters with the knowledge of handling familiar or unfamiliar challenges of life effectively. Certainly, talking to children about mental health allows them to look at it as something that everybody has, and it can further contribute to breaking the stigma that surrounds it. Open conversations remain the key to helping learners free themselves of the fear of being “judged” or “blamed” for their situations and enable them to hold conversations on mental health issues as easily as others.
Author – Dr. Niyati Chitkara, Director-Schools, Chitkara International School Chandigarh, Panchkula