Mental Health is all about how we relate with it in life as such and deal with it. As the pandemic has turned the life of people upside-down, it has had its impact. Not only pandemic, beyond that as well, mental health is critical in the healthy life of human beings. Therefore, it is quite critical, especially post-pandemic that we as educators deal with the impact of this in the life of the stakeholders of the school.
As educators, people who are in leadership roles can take charge of creating an atmosphere for addressing mental health and well-being. Rather than getting into the stigma of it or looking at that as an issue, it should be considered as support to deal with the circumstances.
According to my experience, most of the issues originate from mental health. Human beings are emotional by design; without emotions human beings are robots. So, addressing the emotional aspect is what we call mental health. As leaders, these issues are prevalent among students, teachers, staff, and parents as well. The major challenge is to acknowledge that mental health issues are present. The second challenge is to create a space for communication among the stakeholders. The third challenge is to continue the support system to address the mental health issues. The fourth challenge is addressing mental health issues as common issues.
Anxiety is the first stage of the problem. If that is not addressed, it leads to burnout and the next stage of burnout leads to depression. Depression leads to suicide or other major consequences. Each stage has its own signs.
Let’s get into the details of the stakeholders. For students, especially from third grade, it all starts with anxiety and grows to subsequent stages if not addressed. Challenges in dealing with these stakeholders are:
- The child doesn’t communicate with parents or teachers about the experiences he/she undergoes
- Disconnect with the real relationships (i.e., Nuclear Family, Gadgets)
- Exposure to inappropriate content in media. (i.e., games, simulation games)
- Broken Family or issues in family
- The environment he/she is living (i.e., Violence, fighting, revenge,)
The most stressful job is a teaching job. There are various reason according to the demographic and social status of the teachers. Challenges in addressing the mental health of teachers are:
- Teachers’ Family may not support. (i.e., Joint Family)
- Teaching job is not their first choice
- Societal pressure from different stakeholders to get the results
- Keep the demand of being upgraded moment by moment in terms of i.e., attitude
- Physical Health of teachers
In Parents, mental health issues are largely prevalent, such as lack of awareness, exposure to education, and dealing with the family environment. This depends on various factors which include social status, and demography education. Challenges in parents are
- Accepting the mental health issues
- The stigmatized approach to mental health issues
- Confidence of schools
- Fear for the future of the children
- Competition in the society
- Create a strong relationship with the stakeholders
- Create awareness about mental health and its consequence through sessions among stakeholders
- Workshops and training programs to address health issues
- Weekly sessions with the children
- Spending time with each stakeholder to listen to them about their issues.
- Addressing the issues immediately
- Recommend medical treatment if required
- Created an atmosphere of sharing and caring
- Working as a community for a larger goal and creating a context for it
- Maintain a journal across stakeholders of their dealings
- A weekly session with counselors for teachers and students
- Counselors observing the students and the teachers
- Have personal visits to their home and session with the stakeholders
- Training programs and workshops for parents and teachers about mental health
- Constant support to stakeholders
- Exposure to outdoors and games
- Interaction with society
- Constant communication
The mental health issue is an issue if we are resigned and cynical. Mental health starts from cynicism which leads to stress and navigates if it is not addressed. The first step to address is to communicate with a person whom he or she is confident with. Then take the necessary steps to address it by appropriate action. Each stage has different signs. For example, living alone, being excommunicated from people, talking to self, fearing of dark, difficult dealing with people, getting angry, forgetfulness, etc. The critical stage of this leads to substance abuse, drugs, alcoholism, pills, sleeplessness, etc. When this is reached, it has to be dealt with by a clinical psychologist.
In conclusion, mental health issues exist. It is undeniable and it has to be addressed at an early stage. Leaving it unattended will lead to disastrous consequences. It is not one day or one year rather, it is part of the culture of the school, and we talk about it and address it at an appropriate time. Due to the pandemic, it had become more prevalent. Nevertheless, constantly monitoring and supporting will provide a healthy and happy community. As educators, we have a critical role to play in taking and addressing this to each and every citizen of the country.
Author – Mohammed Azhar, Principal, Knowledge Academy School, Chengalpattu, Tamil Nadu