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Education and Mental Health

Updated: Nov 26, 2022

Written by Lokesh Khadaka, Uthkarshi Perera, and Risanga Abeygunasekara


Mental health involves a person’s psychological, emotional, and social health. It affects how we think, feel, act and handle stress. Although you often can’t see it with your bare eyes, a mental health problem can cause serious damage to a person’s life and well-being. So, it is important to say ‘Mental health is equally as important as physical health!’


But this is not seriously taken by society and is often neglected by people due to stigma. So, before we move ahead, we should know ‘what is stigma?’ Stigma is a set of negative and often unfair beliefs that a society or a group of people have about something. Regarding mental health, when a person struggles with mental illness or tries to express their mental issues, people may think he/she/they is/are faking it. This can result in bad consequences for the person with mental health problems that are left untreated.


To end the stigma, we must raise mental health awareness and it is the schools’ responsibility to provide mental health education. But, unfortunately, the majority of educational institutions in South Asia aren’t focused on student psychology and the betterment of their mental health.


“The lack of mental health education in school is shocking. It seems young people only learn about mental health after suffering from it themselves.”

-Tom Hulme


Also, a school’s environment may negatively affect students’ mental health if they are not properly administered, monetized, and addressed. These are as follows;

  • Bullying

  • Unhealthy competition

  • Peer pressure

  • Financial constraints

  • Academic stress

Out of the above points, we see academic stress is majorly affecting students. Academic stress gives way to low self-esteem due to fears of inferiority or depression from the inability to live up to expectations, which could in turn affect a student’s academic performance even further.


A student who faces mental health issues struggles with day-to-day activities. They show a lack of concentration, poor academic performance, experience severe mood swings, and often feel indifferent. These are ‘early warning signs!’ It’s very crucial to notice the early warning signs to prevent the long-term impacts of psychological issues that may happen to any student or person.

If a student is unable to talk about mental health and the problems, it might lead to severe consequences like the following below;

  • Anxiety

  • Stress

  • Isolation

  • Depression

  • Suicidal attempts

Being able to recognize and support students’ mental health in schools matters because these problems are common and often develop during childhood and adolescence. Also, early detection and intervention strategies work and can help improve resilience and the ability to succeed in school and life.


For these problems, there are several action plans and solutions that can be used to reduce the risk of severe consequences. These solutions can be categorized into different forms or levels as follow;

  1. Individual Level (Informal)

  2. Community Level (Informal)

  3. Institutional Level (Formal)

  4. National/Policy Level (Formal)

Individual Level: A person can engage in activities that release happy hormones (serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin) like meditating, dancing, talking with their friends, or engaging in leisure activities, etc... which makes them feel relaxed and happy.


Community Level: Holding mental health awareness programs and promoting them through multimedia content in the villages, towns, societies, etc... helps to spread the importance of this topic in the whole community.


Institutional Level: Having mental health workshops, counseling sessions, and even collaborations with mental health-promoting organizations like ‘Moner Bondhu’ and ‘Calm Collective’ will make sure that everyone gets help, support, and access to mental health professionals.


National/Policy Level: Policymaking plays a major role in providing mental health care for every citizen in a country. The most impactful policy that can be used by schools is providing sick leaves for students with mental illness, where the no. of sick leaves can be monetized and, can provide support and counsel to students with higher mental illness sick leaves. This will result in decreasing the rate of suicides, trauma, and stress.


During these above solutions, the most efficient way to grow and contribute more to the community is by feedback where solutions to specific needs and problems are met.


Moreover, there is a model that can be used to promote mental well-being. This model is called the PERMA model.


The PERMA model is effective because;

  • It is a proven practical strategy for promoting well-being.

  • It can be practiced by everyone or any institution.

  • It is suggested to be used in schools.

P – Positive impact: For us to experience well-being, we need positive emotions in our lives. Joy, inspiration, love, calm, gratitude, etc... are positive emotions.


E – Engagement: It means being engaged and focused in the present moment without worrying about the past or future. One can engage in hobbies, sports, gardening, reading a book, watching a movie, and many more!


R – Positive Relationships: This is about healthy relationships with others that increase our happiness.


M – Meaning: Meaning is anything that personally gives you a sense of belonging and purpose to life, big or small. This can be a social cause, a religious belief, serving the needy, planting a tree, etc...


A – Accomplishments/Achievements: Achievement is about the journey towards fulfilling our potential or interests even if that’s in a small way. This can be finishing a book, completing a task, making friends, etc... Learning to appreciate small things will help in improving your well-being.


All these solutions may provide short-term, mid-term, and long-term impacts. For example, if a school can recognize the students who struggle in preparing for exams and provide them with proper resources and guidance to stay organized, as a short-term impact the student will not feel isolated and feel a sense of belonging. As a mid-term impact, those students may pass the exam with good grades and as a long-term impact, a productive citizen will be out of school.


In conclusion to this, it is important to take care of mental health as we give care and attention to physical health. Rising together and sharing the responsibilities of each role in society is crucial to promote well-being successfully!


“In a world of algorithms, hashtags and followers, know the true importance of human connections and emotions”


~ Lokesh Khadaka (Nepal), Uthkarshi Perera (Sri Lanka), Risanga Abeygunasekara (Sri Lanka)


References:
  1. Nicola Williams. (2021, November 17). How does education affect mental health? News-Medical.net. https://www.news-medical.net/health/How-does-Education-Affect-Mental-Health.aspx

  2. School based mental health. (n.d.). Youth.gov. https://youth.gov/youth-topics/youth-mental-health/school-based

  3. The Mind Tools Content Team. (n.d.). The PERMA model. Management Training and Leadership Training – Online. https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/perma.htm

  4. Gauthier Lebbe. (2018, November 27). Student mindsets: Fixed vs growth. Wooclap Blog. https://www.wooclap.com/blog/en-gb/student-mindsets-fixed-vs-growth

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