Lessons for Calcutta schools on mental health
Schools must train teachers to identify children who show signs of stress and anxiety in class, the state child rights protection agency has said.
Parents, too, have been asked to inform the school if the child suffers from a physical or mental condition.
Both teachers and parents play important roles in “ensuring mental well-being” of students, according to the West Bengal Commission for Protection of Child Rights (WBCPCR), which has issued a set of recommendations for schools.
Unfortunately, many institutions are not equipped to understand the mental health issues of students, the commission has pointed out and urged schools to train teachers to spot manifestations of stress, depression or anxiety in students.
“The teachers should be trained in identifying symptoms and patterns of mental health-related issues so that the children may be referred to the psychologists/psychiatrists as required,” the recommendations stated.
School counsellors, however, said it would be difficult to train every teacher to identify students suffering from mental health problems. “Teachers can’t be counsellors. But he or she should be able to understand immediately if a student behaves abnormally in class. Students should feel free to share their difficulties with their teacher. Teachers can be trained to develop this attitude among the students,” said Parmeet Soni, clinical psychologist.
The commission’s advice is aimed at checking suicide among school students, Ananya Chatterjee Chakraborti, the chairperson of the child rights panel, said.
A Class X student of GD Birla Centre for Education was recently found dead in the school washroom with wounds she is suspected to have inflicted on herself.
The girl, a class topper, left behind a three-page note that suggested stress. The police had said she had not blamed anyone for her death.
Parents of children who suffer from mental health problems because of stress or depression often do not share the information with the school, according to the commission.
Schools must maintain a record of the physical and mental health conditions of its students, the commission has said. School diaries must include a page where parents will have to provide information about their wards’ mental and physical health conditions along with other details such as weight, height and blood group. If a student suffers from stress, depression or anxiety, or if they have any health problem, parents will have to specify the details of treatment.
The commission has also stressed that schools must ensure that all information regarding the mental health of students remains “strictly confidential”.
Several private schools already have a page in their diaries where parents are required to give a declaration on their wards’ health condition.
“We have received the recommendations of the commission. Our school already has a system of maintaining data related to our students’ health conditions. We will examine the commission’s recommendations and adopt them if necessary,” said Terence Ireland, the principal of St James’ School.