“In the middle of winter, I at last discovered that there was, in me, an invincible summer.” — Albert Camus
Today is 24th January, the day UNESCO sets aside to commemorate the importance of education as a human right. On International Day of Education, it is time we acknowledge that accessing the basic right of quality education has become an even more daunting challenge than earlier for the youth of our country and globally. MHFA India observes the day to call for immediate action to support students’ mental health as a prerequisite to building more mentally healthy societies for India’s youth.
Magnitude of the Education Gap Our Youth Face
Two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, young learners are still grappling with learning gaps. UN studies say that more than 50% of the world’s students are yet to recover from learning losses, and perhaps may never will. Such massive academic setback is over and above the cumulative strains of closures, lockdowns, financial variabilities, and social support loss. Add to all this, unprecedented ill-health, fear, loss of family members, and personal grief, besides probable loss of income and resources.
As UNESCO highlight the need to prioritising education recovery as crucial to averting a generational catastrophe of global scale.1 India is home to a fifth of the world’s youth demographic.2 Addressing India’s youth on the occasion of National Youth Day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi proclaimed, “India considers its youths as development drivers.“ He pointed out, “Youth’s ability is not burdened by old stereotypes. This youth can evolve itself and society according to new challenges” and that “Today’s youth has a ‘Can Do’ spirit, which is a source of inspiration for every generation”.4 Keeping the achieving spirit alive of young people is the responsibility largely of educational institutions and care-givers.
Mental Health Education, As an Integral Part of Right-Based Education
Responding to this, Erinda Shah, Founder and Managing Director of MHFA India stated, “Many young people’s lives have been immensely affected by irrevocable shifts. The sharp increase in stressors has resulted in immeasurable amount of strain on the mental health of students. When educational organisations revise and remould their education delivery systems, the mental health of students must be a priority.”
Ms. Shah reiterates, “I believe that good education is a right. Mental health education too needs to be seen as right-based learning, because it means that much.” As someone monitoring mental health readings closely, Ms. Shah believes that faculty and students need to be well educated on mental health so that they can handle mental health crises and challenges in campuses. Today’s youth face increasing exposure to risk of mental health challenges and substance use disorders. The highest percentage recorded of suicide in India in 2020 is in the age group of 18 to 30 years, with 34.4% people dying by suicide, a 10.0% increase over the 2019 data.3 As teachers in our universities and educational institutions struggle to impart academic learning via newer channels, they are often unable to extend emotional and mental support to their students. This is why reputed universities across the globe have employed the Mental Health First Aider training as part of their on-campus wellbeing initiatives.
The MHFA Advantage
The MHFA course is a scientifically drawn up mental health awareness and skills development training that has life-changing impact in promoting mental health literacy, encouraging positive conversations about mental health, and reducing of stigma towards mental illnesses. It is a licensed internationally recognised evidence-based course that helps learners gain skills for early identification of common mental health problems and providing of adequate support to anyone experiencing mental health issues.
A pilot randomised controlled study of the Mental Health First Aid eLearning course with UK medical students “demonstrated the potential for the MHFA eLearning course to improve UK medical students’ mental health first aid skills, confidence to help a friend and stigmatising attitudes.” The study concluded that “It [the MHFA course] could be useful in supporting their [the medical students'] own and others’ mental health while studying and in their future healthcare careers.5
Mental Health First Aid India teaches common mental health problems such as anxiety, depression, substance use disorders, eating disorders, and self-harm. Trained students can identify early symptoms of a cluster of mental health problems, intervene early, and listen non-judgmentally to their peers, family, friends, and communities at large. Moreover, the training helps First Aiders understand and manage their own mental health. Following the recorded success of the MHFA program globally, MHFA India is ready to launch the Blended Mental Health First Aid Course for Students.
Ready to Lead the Healthy Campus?
If there is one lesson we can learn from the pandemic, it is that we do not have to wait for another challenge before finding ways to make mental health education more available and accessible for everyone.
If you are ready to lead the healthy campus for better student life and productivity, MHFA India is eager to partner with you to roll out the evidence-based MHFA programme updated and acculturated for Indian students. MHFA India welcomes universities and other seats of learning to join the league of elite educational institutions in the world to deploy the MHFA course structure as part of their wellness programme. Together, we can help promote mental health positive and healthy campuses and a healthy generation of mental health literate citizens.
Get in Touch
- Read more about the MHFA India Student programme.
- Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Call the MHFA India office at +91 7397383004.
- Reimagining Our Futures Together: a New Social Contract for Education
- National Crime Records Bureau, 2020.
- Press Information Bureau