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Mental health in schools get a shot in the arm from AIIMS

The All India Institute of Medical Sciences in Delhi.

The All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in Delhi will conduct sessions focused on mental health in schools in the national capital, aimed at bolstering awareness among students and encouraging them to follow habits to promote their own wellbeing.

The AIIMS initiative, which will run in twenty schools both privately and publicly run, will reach students in classes VI, VII, VIII, IX, X, XI and XII within the National Capital Region. Run by the psychiatry division of the premier medical institute, the initiative will see students educated about healthy screen time, appropriate use of social media and the internet, the importance of exercise and community spirit, and the development of self-esteem and self-respect among other attributes. 

The signing of a memorandum of understanding between AIIMS and the Airports Authority of India for a project promoting mental health in schools was announced in September. At the time, it was anticipated that 2,000 students would be reached by the project, entitled Mind Activation Through Education (MATE). “A lot of hormonal changes occur in this age group,” said Nand Kumar, a psychiatry professor with AIIMS who serves as the principal investigator for the project. “Children need special care and focus from their parents.” 

Promoting mental health in schools has been advocated for by the Delhi government, with one senior government official last month stating “it is very important to look into the mental health factor in schools. It is one area which is largely underserved.” The official said at the time that the Delhi government would run a pilot project in schools but it had yet to manifest. 

“The challenge is that we don’t have as many psychiatrists,” the official explained. “They are limited, busy and appointing them comes at a very high cost…private schools already have such facilities and we realised government schools need them as well.” The project would see professionals visit schools on a rota, themselves being either senior psychiatrists or psychology graduates trained by a senior doctor on mental health in youth. 

Mental health, despite affecting tens of millions of Indians including almost fifty million children, is the source of much stigma and neglect which can lead to the ostracisation of those afflicted and discourage people from seeking out treatment. Educating young people about the importance of their mental health and raising their awareness of such conditions can reduce the stigma among future generations whilst also initiating at a young age positive habits which can have a beneficial effect on health all round – both physically and psychologically.

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