Mumbai: May is the Mental Health month, and there is probably no better way for schools to show their concern than by launching and firming up dedicated cells to look at the mental well-being of their students. Along with other prep, schools are currently busy trying to work out the last-minute modalities to set these special cells up. The tenor across schools is that a two-year stretch of online classes may have gotten some students wired up quite differently, and readjusting to offline classes could take time. While some schools have newly launched departments to keep a check on the mental health of students, others are sprucing up efforts that were existing in some form or the other.
Take, for instance, Orchids International - it has has created a special wing called "Soch"-under this initiative, there are more than 40 counsellors across all branches who conduct workshops, seminars, and study groups with every kid of all grades. "Our team of Special Educators and Counsellors have had special training to work with students with these needs. Teachers are being trained to be able to not only pick up signs of emotional distress but also be the first responder. Besides, these interventions, the school will focus more on socio-emotional well-being and will make every effort to make this transition as smooth and adjusting it can be," said Ms. Bethsheba Sheth HOD – Counselling and Special Needs, Orchids The International School.
" Parents are also encouraged to reach out to our counsellors if they may need one-to-one guidance," she added.
Similarly, the Birla Open International School is going to continue to hold periodic training programmes for faculty to handle student concerns, be it Psychological, Emotional, or Physical. "The teachers are groomed to be empathetic as well as good listeners. The Student Council Members join hands in this Mission with the teachers to help out students, who are in want of confidence, communication, company, and encouragement," said Paanchali Dasgupta Sahu, Principal, Birla Open Minds International School, LB Nagar. "The Self-Esteem sessions are organized wherein Guest Lectures are conducted from time to time. The students are taught to accept setbacks and try again. There is a Counselling Committee, comprising teachers and some senior Student Council members, which defines its annual goals for the areas of Mental Health and then strategizes its path of action, " she added.
Another school chain, EuroSchool has a dedicated cell called Centre of Well Being. The goal is to emotionally and mentally support students, teachers, staff, and management across all campuses in India. "It comprises a series of power-packed initiatives aimed at fostering the well-being of our students, staff, teachers, and our parents, said Ms. Sachu Ramalingam, Lead Inclusive Education & Counselling - EuroSchool.
This year these initiatives will take on a fresh approach to look at students post the pandemic. "This includes a counselling helpline and professional school counselors to facilitate one on one counseling sessions throughout the year. Regular virtual meditation sessions are conducted. Free medical advice and check-ups are also provided by renowned doctors, through which students, their parents, and all the school staff are benefitted."
She further added, "We are also focusing on a student-led peer counselling support system supervised by the school counselors called “Respecting Individuality” on each campus. To advocate that taking care of your mental health is as normal as caring for your physical health. Our teams are studying the earlier patterns to ensure efforts in 2022-2023 are well directed and even more impactful to our students, parents, and staff."
Sujata Khare, Deputy Education Officer, stated, " We are aware of the stress children may go through after being away from school for so long, so BMC schools are also concerned about mental health. We are identifying mental health issues as part of our initiative for safe access to schools and ensure that students are not exposed to it and feel at ease in the classroom."
Shishuvan School, Mumbai Principal Prachi Ranadive said, "Not only for children but also for teachers, we have a special department called Academic Support Unit, where counsellors assist them in dealing with their problems. Every week, we have a personal development session for students to address the mental and emotional challenges they experience. We have a special curriculum based on our personal development sessions This year, we have a new goal to bring students to their pre-covid comfort levels."