1. Introduction mentioning key facts.
  2. Discuss the reasons for growing mental health problems among children
  3. Mention role of psycho-social competence.
  4. Mention teaching life-skills to develop psycho-social competence.
  5. Mention how present education system does not account for mental health
  6. Conclusion.

In India, a disturbing fact has come to the fore – a student commits suicide every hour. According to National Crime Records Bureau data, 11, 396 children died by suicide in 2020, an alarming 18% rise from 2019.

Reasons : children are vulnerable to immense pressure arising out of expectations from parents, teachers, and competition from peer groups. These affect a child’s mental health, which act as triggers. While the real reason behind students’ difficulties with concentration and learning can be Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), mental concerns often manifest in poor academic performance, lack of motivation, social interaction issues, and even self-harm, trapping children into a vicious cycle. Also, sedentary lifestyle is adding to the bodily & mental stress.

There is an acute shortage of counsellors in schools and there is a dearth of psychologists in general. A report by WHO points, for every 1 million people, there are just 3 psychiatrists and even fewer psychologists. A pan-India survey has highlighted that as young as 14-year-olds from both rural & urban regions, are demanding more support for dealing with their stress. Therefore, the inability to understand & cope with failure are driving many young people to serious mental health issues. So, it is imperative to equip the younger generation with resilience & ability to handle such pressure challenges.

Role of psycho-social competence: this is where psycho-social competence comes handy. It is the person’s ability to maintain a state of mental well-being and demonstrate this in adaptive and positive behavior while interacting with others. This competence has an important role in promoting health in its broadest sense – in terms of physical, mental & social well-being. This becomes specially important for health promotion at a time when behavior is being increasingly identified as a key source of health-related problems.

How to develop psycho-social competence ?:

The most direct & effective interventions are those which enhance the coping resources and his/her personal & social competencies. In school-based programmes for children & adolescents, this can be done by teaching life skills in a supportive learning environment. Life skills are the abilities for adaptive-positive behavior that enable individuals to deal effectively with demands & challenges of everyday life. The nature & definition of life-skills are likely to differ across cultures and settings.

However, analysis suggests some core set of skills that are at the heart of skills-based initiatives for the promotion of health & well-being of children and adolescents. These are – decision making, problem solving, creative thinking, critical thinking, effective communication, interpersonal skills, self-awareness, empathy, and coping with emotions & stress.

Challenges in education: transforming the way we impart education and making it holistic is fraught with challenges, especially due to entrenched mindsets. Opposition may come from communities or parents who fail to realize the value in these life skills sessions. At times, teachers refuse to take up extra burden of imparting information on health.

However, a silver lining is seen in states like Jharkhand & Bihar, that have given opportunity to include life-skill education in their school curriculums.

So, it is hoped that transition is in the offing. But concerted efforts are needed in scaling up more awareness to ensure that our youths get more empowered to make better decisions for themselves, to lead a healthy life. For a sound mental health, education needs a sincere transformation. The New Education Policy’s (2020) emphasis on the Mental Health is a welcome step in this direction.

Legacy Editor Changed status to publish June 3, 2022