Bengaluru: While a recent Nimhans survey revealed that 12 per cent of children between four and 16 years of age in the country suffer from mental heath issues, various reports suggest Indian schools are ill-equipped to deal with the problem.
The disturbing fact was highlighted at a panel discussion on the role of schools in child mental health in the city on Thursday.
Many of the participants, who included psychologists, psychiatrists and school principals, suggested early intervention to help children with mental health problems, and inclusion of emotional health as a subject in school curriculum. Dr Anand Lakshman, founder and Chief Executive Officer, AddressHealth, who moderated the discussion, noted that going by estimates the prevalence of various mental health issues in children was hyperkinetic disorders (1.6%), conduct disorders (1.4%), anxiety disorders and phobias (4%), depressive episode (0.1%), Autistic Spectrum Disorders (0.23%), non-organic enuresis (6.2%), mild to moderate MR (0.9%), and epilepsy (0.7%). "These are alarming. Students spend a majority of their time in school and so it is imperative to add emotional literacy to the curriculum. It is possible to address these issues only through timely diagnosis and proper treatment. This will not only ensure overall development of children, but also help them reach their academic potential. More importantly, i
t will remove the stigma associated with mental health," he said.
Dr Ramprasad Attur, child psychiatrist and founder and medical director of TenderMinds, suggested that everyone involved with children – teachers, parents, guardians – should watch out for any alarming signs and the interventions should begin at an early age.
Dr John Vijay Sagar Kommu, associate professor, Nimhans, too emphasised the importance of starting interventions and identifying mental health problems among children early. “For example, if you suspect a child has learning difficulties, it should be addressed immediately," he stressed.
Psychologists ,Gracy Jebastina and Reema Gupta , principal of the Vidyaniketan Public School and Santanu Das, principal, Sarla Birla Academy also participated in the discussion.