New Delhi: Today is World Mental Health Day. World Mental Health is an attempt to draw attention and create awareness about mental health issues. In India, particularly, there is a dire need of awareness about mental health issues since mental health issues are still considered to be a taboo among a large fraction of the population. Mental health issues among students and adolescents in particular need to be addressed carefully. Since there is less to no engagement available to detect and help young students struggling with mental health issues, it poses a bigger problem.
Adolescents, at the cusp of adulthood, go through a lot of changes not just hormonal but emotional as well. Our education system still lacks a proper mechanism to provide counseling and guidance to students about the mental health issues they go through. To top it all, adolescents also have to endure the pressure of Board exams in India, thus adding in to the stress and anxiety they have to face.
According to the 'Mental Health Status of Adolescents in South-East Asia: Evidence for Action', a report published by WHO in April 2017, in 2007, 5.8% population of India was in the age group of 13-15. The report suggested that about 25% adolescents in the country reported being depressed for 2 weeks or more in a row.
The percentage of adolescents who reported being in anxiety was 8%. 8% felt lonely most of the times or always and a 10% of the surveyed students had no friends.
11% of those surveyed also admitted to substance abuse. The report also suggested that an active parental involvement reduced the mental health issues while bullying in school and by peers increased the mental health issues and substance abuse.
These numbers show that depression among school students is not a myth. India is obviously not lagging behind and has identified the problem. In March this year, PM Narendra Modi had addressed mental health issues among students in his 'Mann ki Baat'.
Talking about the taboo surrounding mental health issues he had said, "The problem is that we are unable to fully comprehend it even amongst those around us, and perhaps we also hesitate to talk about it openly, with our family and friends. The person suffering from depression too doesn't speak out himself as he feels a sense of shame about it."
He stressed that the depression needs to be talked about and said, "There is a need to create a psychologically conducive environment to begin with. The first mantra is the expression of depression instead of its suppression."
While there is certainly some awareness about mental health issues in the country now, the measures to combat it in students is still lacking. Though there is no set formula to combat depression, anxiety and other such mental health issues, one thing which can be achieved is creating a safe environment for children in school and at home. Schools can regularly conduct workshops, seminars and one-on-one counselling sessions for students. A Guidance-Counselor at every school can be a valuable addition for students fighting anxiety, depression or any other mental health issue.