Seeking support for mental health and well being is no longer something to be ashamed about. Such acceptance is mainly due to the fact that there is more awareness and sensitization on mental health issues. Nowadays, school children across the country are voluntarily seeking support for various mental health issues from their school counsellors.
However, there is still a degree of stigmatization on receiving help for mental health, which is the most common barrier to seeking support and treatment for mental health issues
An official from the counselling department under the education ministry said there are a huge number of mental health issues reported, such as substance abuse, anxiety and stress among students.
Children who show signs for mental health issues and other personal development are vulnerable to negative school outcomes, such as attendance, behavior and academic problems. Most common mental health issues are family problems, depression, learning disabilities, alcohol and substance abuse, and social media dependence and addictions are some emerging mental health concerns. Issues surrounding child protection, sexual abuses, behavioral, and academic concerns are also covered and treated with confidentiality.
Earlier, only problematic students visited counsellors. The official said the counselling is for everyone, and it is not just providing counselling to those who have problems or some issues. They reach out to the community as well. Apart from students, anyone can seek counselling.
There are 177 school counsellors in high schools currently. The official said there is the requirement for more counsellors in all the schools.
A main challenge that the school counsellors face is that they are only qualified to identify the signs and symptoms. If the child is undergoing severe stress or depression then they are referred to specialists. The other issue is the inadequate accessibility to specialists, as they are in the capital. The official shared that children needing professional support or treatment in schools in the far-flung regions are left untreated, and this could be why mental health issues among children are on the rise.
The official said that during the national lockdown, the school counsellors provided counselling services to school children in need through the social media, phone calls and face-to-face sessions as well. It was found that many children faced tensed family atmosphere as their parents lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Currently, the school counsellors are providing face-to-face counselling and online counselling and consultations through various social media platform. The education ministry has also created a Facebook page where all the contact numbers of school counsellors are listed, so that the students can choose the counsellors. They can also send text messages to get the counselling.