5 tips to support mental wellness of students in changing times

  • It is true that the coronavirus outbreak has caused major disruptions far and wide. But while it has disproportionately affected the physical, social and economic health of communities across the world, students are one of the most impacted.
Physical distancing guidelines, isolation from peers, sudden push into online education, loss of friends, family, playtime, adventures and everything valuable and fun has given birth to complicated emotions amongst pupils everywhere.(Satyabrata Tripathy/HT File)
Physical distancing guidelines, isolation from peers, sudden push into online education, loss of friends, family, playtime, adventures and everything valuable and fun has given birth to complicated emotions amongst pupils everywhere.(Satyabrata Tripathy/HT File)
Published on Sep 17, 2021 03:17 PM IST
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By Rohan Parikh

It is often said that the minds of children are like blank slates. They constantly learn from the environment that surrounds them, and the various experiences that unfold before them. If this theory of ‘tabula rasa’ is to be believed, then the pandemic may have left behind many unfamiliar marks on these young minds, hardly fit to be forgotten.

It is true that the coronavirus outbreak has caused major disruptions far and wide. But while it has disproportionately affected the physical, social and economic health of communities across the world, students are one of the most impacted.

How did that happen?

Physical distancing guidelines, isolation from peers, sudden push into online education, loss of friends, family, playtime, adventures and everything valuable and fun has given birth to complicated emotions amongst pupils everywhere.

Why did it increase mental stress?

The abrupt locking down of educational institutes disconnected students from more than just classrooms, friends and extracurricular activities. It has actually severed their ties from the compassionate comfort, advice and support of their educators. Before the pandemic, it was these mentors who were constantly helping the students build their confidence, navigate the pressures of adolescence and cope up with several traumas.

As a result of this disheartening outcome, mental health experts are worried about the psychological toll on a generation that was already experiencing a steady increase in depression, anxiety and suicides much before COVID-19.

Will schools help soften this blow?

A lot has transpired between the first lockdown to the gradual re-opening of the world now. While the return to school will be exciting for many, there are bound to be some students who will be feeling anxious or frightened. A shift in the culture, within the educational system, could be the path to take if schools wish to reduce the burden of mental stress on students. This may include altering the attitude and approach towards educational delivery as well as expectations attached to it.

Could stress be avoided in students?

Both parents and educational institutes are responsible for keeping a check on the mental health of students.

Here are 5 tips that could help children avoid mental stress during these trying times.

1. Prioritizing non-academic sessions

Educational institutes can conduct self-reflection activities for students across all age groups. This can also include sessions on meditation and yoga. The idea is to make sure the students don’t feel burdened and find befitting outlets to release their pent-up emotions.

2. Reducing academic burden

A cut-back on the syllabi and a refresher course of the previous year’s syllabi could also help students feel less tense and more prepared as well as confident.

3. Sensitizing students

It’s important to talk to students about how to approach the pandemic and post-pandemic period. Coupled with morale-boosting and awareness sessions, this could prepare students for what to expect, thereby avoiding the fear of the unknown.

4. Keeping active

Locked indoors has made children lethargic. It’s time that students got up and about and had some fun. It’s a good idea to make sure that they catch up on some light exercise, sport or games every day.

5. Focusing on positives

Self-care, anxiety management and a problem-solution approach can help students go a long way. Instead of losing themselves to negative thoughts and self-criticism, it is important to train their young and impressionable minds to look at the good in every situation.

New as it may be, the pandemic is just a reminder of the law of evolution – survival of the fittest. With educators and educational institutions backing them up during these unprecedented times, the future adults of the world can learn to row their boat and leave the mental storm of COVID-19 behind them. The secret lies in trying. Together.

(Author Rohan Parikh is Managing Director of The Green Acres Academy – Schools by The Acres Foundation. Views expressed here are personal.)

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Tuesday, October 26, 2021