By Dr. R. Thara and Dr. S. Anuradha- SCARF
Sai is a 14-year-old studying in the 9th standard. An above average student, he has been performing poorly at school in the last few months. He says he finds it difficult to concentrate and gets negative thoughts. He often fights with others. He explains that at times his heart runs like a train.
His parents are both working in a shop and are graduates. Sai is their only son, and they want him to achieve everything they couldn’t in their lives. Hence every day they would tell him that he should come first in the class/ school and should get into a professional course preferably medical. Since he is in 9th standard now, the pressure to perform has increased a lot even from the school.
His day is packed with studies at school, homework, and tuition classes. He doesn’t have time to play or chat with his friends, doesn’t have any hobbies, doesn’t watch TV or listens to music his whole life revolves around books and studies. All this is making him very angry and irritable and sometimes feels like throwing out all his books.
Sheela is also in the 9th standard. But of late she finds it difficult to concentrate on her studies, feels very sad, at times feels like dying. She eats very little and her involvement in the class activities and with her friends has come down.
When spoken to, she says her parents are often quarrelling among themselves even for small things. They don’t spend time with her, except ask her to study more and more.
She has friends but because of the environment at home, she finds it difficult to bring her friends home. She feels shy about her family situation. She is basically longing for a peaceful life.
These are real life stories of children we met during our school mental programs. Too much stress or problems at home can affect children.
Mental health programmes in school
School mental health programs are an important means to promote competence in young individuals and prevent serious mental disorders. Recognizing teachers and parents as partners in this promotional endeavour and providing them with the necessary skills to be facilitators are a good strategy for improving mental well being of the young.
Having recognized this, SCARF, an NGO dealing with mental health (www.scarfindia.org) has been doing conducting school mental health programmes over the years in schools in and around Chennai Workshops and lectures were the major mode of intervention programs which included slide shows and group discussions. Workshops are usually conducted for about one and half hours were done on subjects such as Motivation, Time management, Stress management, Decision making and Problem-solving, Interpersonal relationship, Effective communication, Coping with emotions, Creative thinking, Physical health, Discipline, Self-awareness, Social responsibility and Effective learning.
Also read: All about anger management
Workshops are also conducted for teachers and parents on effective teaching and effective parenting. SCARF has started working in a few corporation schools also and have plans to expand this programme.