Shift to educational models that place a greater emphasis on students' mental health rather than their grades.
In its annual report published in November 2021, the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) revealed an appalling statistic of thirty-one youngsters committing suicide per day in India in 2020. Between 2017 and 2019, nearly 24,000 youth aged 14 to 18 years committed suicide, according to the aggregated statistics given to Parliament in August 2021. Over 14,000 of them were females, accounting for more than 54% of the total.
While the report's reasons, such as family issues, hero-worship, and unemployment, provide insight into the elements at play, they do not provide a whole picture. In India, mental health issues are not common topics of discourse at the dinner table, making them more difficult to map and address.
During the COVID-19 epidemic, the situation deteriorated as individuals were confined to their houses for extended periods, increasing psychological stress. As children were compelled to adjust to the dual issues of staying at home and switching to a digital medium of education, the dilemma grew more pressing.
The pressure and stress of adapting to a whole new medium significantly harmed students' psychological health as schools transitioned to online modalities of instruction. Children under the age of twelve, who are still developing their cognitive capacities, were shown to be suffering on the majority of occasions.
There have been multiple examples of school-aged children committing themselves because their parents could not afford cell phones or laptops to help them with their schoolwork. This highlights the country's enormous socioeconomic divides, which seep into the lives of children, compelling them to deal with situations that would otherwise be unimaginable.
As a result, mental health awareness must be instilled in children at an early age through pedagogies that emphasise social and emotional well-being rather than academics and grades. Children must be viewed not only as contributors to the development of human capital in the country but also as forerunners of our future.
Social, Emotional, and Ethical (SEE) Learning is one such pedagogical paradigm. Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, collaborated with the Dalai Lama to create the programme, which builds on previous breakthroughs achieved by the social and educational learning (SEL) community. SEE Learning is being introduced in Indian schools such as Vega Schools, Shelford Group of Futuristic Schools, and Parvarish - The Museum School, which recognizes that humans are made up of living things as social animals.
It is also used in other nations, such as the United States and Canada. Students are exposed to the subtle contours of mental health, psychological functioning, and the need to harness both through learning through such models, such as the SEE Learning issue. The value of evolution over advancement, spiritual over the material, is instilled in such pedagogies. Students are urged to approach moral issues from a compassionate perspective. The goal is to incorporate SEE Learning into the school's culture, not only the curriculum.
One aspires to develop pupils who will go on to establish a more egalitarian, kind, and just society as a result of this. At the same time, they would realise that rivalry is simply one way of looking at life and that it is usually more harmful than good.
Suicides are a consequence or a function of profound trauma, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, but their roots are deeply rooted in a country's societal health. Suicide prevention receives far less public attention in a nation like ours, where there are far more suicide fatalities each year than AIDS-related deaths and maternal deaths (45,000) combined.
"However, in India, a public health approach to suicide prevention is gaining traction," according to research published in the medical journal The Lancet. However, the Mental Health Act of 2017, which made progress toward decriminalising suicide, has been a recent highlight. Carrying this momentum forward to the formulation of a national suicide prevention plan will be a critical next step. SEE Learning and 21st-century life skills are also important for students' holistic development in the National Education Policy, 2020 (NEP 2020).
Another crucial aspect of children's suicide prevention is their parents' part in building a home atmosphere that is open, welcoming, and believes in critique above criticism. By asking meaningful questions, recalling instructive experiences, and engaging in regular discussions, parents may be encouraged to direct their child's ethical and mental growth via SEE Learning.
Most kids in India leave school better equipped to pass examinations than to comprehend the value of mental health. This is not a new problem. Though this is cause for concern, the pressure that the system places on kids obstructs their general development by acting as a barrier to understanding their mental health difficulties. As a result, it is past time for Indian educators to broaden their horizons and consider alternate models and techniques of growth that are not just based on grades and success.