Petition to include Mental Health as one of the focal areas of NEP 2020

Petition to include Mental Health as one of the focal areas of NEP 2020

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Mohammad Kashif Khan started this petition to Government of India and

Mental disorder accounts for around 15 per cent of the overall disease conditions across the world, according to an estimate by the World Health Organization (WHO). The same estimate also indicates that India has one of the highest mental illness-affected populations. As a consequence, the WHO has branded India as the most depressing country in the world. Moreover, according to a study, from 1990 to 2017, one in seven Indians suffered from mental illness ranging from depression, anxiety to extreme disorders such as schizophrenia.

Did you know that 9.8 million teenagers, in India, between the age group of 13 and 17 years suffer from depression and other forms of mental health disorders? And that they are "in need of active intervention"? India accounts for 36.6 per cent of suicides globally among teenage girls aged 15-19 years. This makes the need for mental health education for children in schools even more urgent.

To say that the nation is under a mental health crisis is no exaggeration !!!!

Only 9000 psychiatrists are looking after the population of India, as stated by Madras High Court. Court also notes that only 49 child physiatrists take care of children of the entire country.

What do we mean by Mental Health and Why is it as important as physical health?  

Mental Health (MH) refers to emotional, psychological, and social wellbeing. It has an impact on our thinking, feelings, and actions. MH determines our ability to handle stress, associate with others, and makes decisions. Thus, it becomes very important for an individual at all stages of his/her life. Even after being crucial for a person's wellbeing, MH is not talked about much. People do a lot of things to maintain physical health like workouts, taking special diets, etc. but when it comes to MH, there is a lack of awareness which makes the problems arising from mental illness widespread. Not only this, but there also exists a huge impact of mental illness on the economics of a country. A person suffering from mental illness cannot contribute to the growth of the economy as much as a mentally healthy person.

Mental wellbeing is an important aspect of health that is more than a lack of mental disorders. It applies to a wide variety of practices that are directly or indirectly linked to mental wellbeing, mental illness prevention, and the care and recovery of persons with mental disorders. According to the World health organization, "Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity." Mental health is an integral and essential part of health. As humans, mental wellbeing is important to our collective and individual capacity to think, emote, connect, earn a living, and enjoy life. On this basis, it is possible to view the promotion, security, and rehabilitation of mental health as a critical concern for individuals, communities, and societies around the world.

Why is India in this situation today?

1.     India's lack of understanding and openness to the problem is the first and foremost cause for its ignorance of mental health. There is a great stigma surrounding individuals suffering from some sort of mental health problems. They are also branded by society as "lunatics." This adds to a vicious cycle of patient guilt, pain, and loneliness.

2.     Moreover, corporate places less importance on mental health than physical health, and therefore provides poor insurance coverage in the area of mental health.

3.     Negligible budgetary allocations of mental health combined with a low ratio of physiatrists (0.301 for 100,000 in 2011) and psychologists (0.047 for 100,000 in 2011) in India have further exacerbated the problem rather than destigmatize it.

What can India do?

1.     India's mental health crisis calls for active policy initiatives and government substantial budgetary allocation to improve the mental health infrastructure and prioritize mental health.

2.     Initiatives to link patients by creating a peer network with each other to support each other.

3.     Persons with mental health challenges must have the same access to effective and reliable services as people with any physical health issues.

4.     In addition, within the scope of life insurance, mental illness must be mandatory. With the same lens that they use for physical illnesses, this would help individuals realize the ill effects of mental illness.

5.     We need steps to educate and sensitize the community/society in order to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health. Only when we have a continuous national campaign to educate society about mental disorders will this happen.

For the purpose of this petition, we will focus on educating the Indians at grassroots, i.e. as part of the school curriculum as a tool to prioritize and destigmatize mental health in India.

WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO ADD MENTAL HEALTH EDUCATION TO THE SCHOOL'S CURRICULUM?

1.      Depression is the single largest illness in the world. Among the several illnesses which seem to be lethal and painful to the recipient, depression wins the race to be the single largest illness in the world. It acts as a breeding ground for suicide if left unchecked.

2.      Suicide is the second-largest leading cause of death among adolescents and young adults. We all might have heard the news of students committing suicide because of academic or other forms of mental pressure. With the increase in competition everywhere, taking stress becomes a common phenomenon for youngsters which then gets aggravated to depression if not properly taken care of thereby abetting suicide.

3.      Almost half of all mental illnesses begin by the age of 14. Adolescents and children are particularly vulnerable to academic pressure imposed by their parents. They start feeling belittled when they score fewer marks than their peers. The, often humiliating, comments from their parents and relatives have a huge impact on their self-esteem, thereby affecting their mental health.

4.      Symptoms of anxiety are often minimized or ignored in adolescents. Kids face many obstacles in the school setting. Others are better than others at handling them. Numerous adolescents feel, ranging from mild indications to more extreme manifestations, such as panic attacks, feel insecure. They can lead to depression, loss of productivity, and a higher likelihood of drug abuse when these indications are overlooked. In India, we often discredit the symptoms as “stage-fright”. 

5.      The prominence of palliative care. Before a mental disorder occurs in its full-blown form, family, colleagues, professors, and people themselves frequently observe subtle shifts in thought and actions. It can be useful to think about tell-tale signs and take action. It can decrease the severity of the disease, and the progression of a serious psychiatric illness can also be avoided or postponed. Apathy, sensations of separation, nervousness, odd behaviour, isolation, mood swings, and a decrease in results are some of these symptoms.

6.      Teens learn regarding dietary and physical wellbeing, but not psychological health. Well-being isn't just about what's happening in the world outside. To help educate children about the importance of food and fitness, physical education classes are necessary. We teach children all about healthy eating and keeping fit. Infections, sexual health, and nutrition are taught in health classes. Yet we're not teaching children about their mental wellbeing. This curriculum disparity has a potentially enormous effect on society for future generations. The way the students behave, communicate with their families, and make relations with others is influenced by poor mental health, anxiety, and depression.

Suggested Solution:

NEP 2020 has the immense potential to transform the Indian education system with development and social considerations as it involves a complete overhaul of our education systems. The new education universe i.e. NEP 2020 should aim to break the stigma associated with mental health by creating a comprehensive and inclusive curriculum.

To present, mental wellbeing is often talked about in reverent whispers. Considering the fact that one in four people globally suffers from mental illness, the shame and prejudice associated with mental health issues prevent people from speaking out and seeking help; they only keep suffering in isolation, and often, even in denial. What so many people aren't even aware of is that, just like every other condition that affects the body, mental illnesses are medical illnesses.

The idea of a curriculum for mental health is similar - starting from the very beginning to speak about mental health and wellbeing in a systematic and deliberate way. We suggest a 3-phase approach for this in

ABC Approach in designing NEP 2020’s mental health curriculum

Phase 1 – Awareness and sensitization

The first step of the curriculum should be to raise awareness of the value of emotional wellbeing, eradicate the mental illness taboo, and sensitize students to people who may be in distress. The aim is not to get into the specifics of different illnesses and their symptoms, but instead to recognize that issues linked to mental health are true, that they're not really due to the fault or weakness of a person's personality, and that many individuals within us may be distressed.

Phase 2 – Behaviour building towards seeking help

If students know where and how they may reach out for support, the feelings of loneliness, hopelessness, and helplessness that people encounter, which can cause them to take drastic action, may potentially be changed. It is important to emphasize the fact that finding support is a strength rather than a weakness. And most significantly, learners need to provide a safe space in the form of teachers and counsellors with someone they can discuss their issues, instead of depending on inaccurate sources of knowledge such as classmates or the web.

Phase 3 – Capability Building

The prevention factor is the third part of the approach, and maybe the most critical one - we can take some precautions to maintain that children are able to easily adapt and deal with the stresses and problems they face. The solution to this is personal development training - providing students with an optimistic attitude and approach to develop psychological and emotional understanding, improve communication skills such as listening and decisiveness, think objectively and make sound decisions, and cope effectively with stress.

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Sources:

1.     https://health.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/industry/what-india-must-do-to-solve-its-mental-health-crisis/74314862

2.     http://origin.searo.who.int/india/topics/mental_health/about_mentalhealth/en/#:~:text=In%20India%2C%20WHO%20estimates%20that,per%20100%2C000%20population%20is%2021.1

3.     https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/mental-health-strengthening-our-response

4.     https://www.thelancet.com/action/showPdf?pii=S2215-0366%2819%2930475-4

5.     https://www.indiatoday.in/education-today/featurephilia/story/here-s-why-schools-should-include-mental-health-education-in-curriculum-1454266-2019-02-12#:~:text=A%20mental%20health%20curriculum%20in,who%20may%20be%20in%20distress

6.     https://thedoctorweighsin.com/mental-health-education-schools/

7.     https://www.wgu.edu/heyteach/article/importance-mental-health-awareness-schools1810.html

8.     https://www.brainforestcenters.com/resources/mental-health-taught-schools

 

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