Over the past decade especially, the education sector world over has been focusing on the critical issue of promoting wellness of students to relieve stress causing factors that adversely affect overall academic achievement and social adaptation. Educational administrators and managers, in a sense – all those in leadership positions in the field of education, are now giving priority and attention on the mental wellbeing of students and staff alike. In present times growing children and adolescents often find themselves in situations where they require emotional support, more than ever before; one of the causes is the increase in the number of both parents working – balancing time between parenting responsibilities and professional work often becomes very challenging and children have to rely on external sources for such help. Schools and school leadership plays an important role in bridging this gap and helping students develop confidence, build resilience toward adversities, as well as manage their emotional states.
A mere absence of mental illness does not ensure mental or emotional wellbeing. Robust mental health relates to a stable emotional and cognitive condition of wellbeing where student are able to cope with and manage daily life stressors positively; thus being able to meet their academic potential and learning needs as well as maintain healthy social relationships within their communities – family, friends and so on. The ability to cope and adapt to changing situations with an open mind is an outcome of emotional strength and wellbeing.
Schools have been including various wellness programs to reach out to their student communities. These are not restricted to only those who are at risk, but the student population at large. Mostly these programs are woven into the curricula. Such programs focus on resolution of issues concerning learning challenges linked with special education needs that often lead to behavioral disorders as well as factors that may be external to academics for example family dysfunction and other similar social matters. Research indicates that students who are self-aware are better able to adjust to their changed surroundings and circumstances. They are more mindful about their physical, emotional and spiritual needs. Hence schools are now starting off these programs from an early age.
The need to promote mental health and emotional wellbeing rom a young age
Mostly conditions related to emotional wellbeing emerge in the pre-adolescent years. It is necessary to attend to these in the early stages of social-emotional development. If one were to regard this period, it is the same time that students spend in school and college or university. In a sense it is appropriate to say that all these issues arise while students are learning in the educational set-up; which is the most critical period of human development. Therefore in order to increase students’ choices and opportunities in life to succeed becomes an integral part of these schools focus areas. Such programs should be at the core of any educational program. Learning cannot be delinked from mental wellbeing.
Benefits of wellness programs in schools
- providing students with the requisite skills to develop self confidence
- helping students become resilient against adverse situations
- supporting students thrive in their learning journey
- developing in them to seek and be life-long learners
- empowering students to become self-reliant and seek help when required
Ways to serve emotional wellbeing and mental health programs in schools
- create social connections
- build safe learning communities and environments
- train in life skills – coping mechanisms and problem solving
- promote values that are pro-social
- promote self-respect and self-worth
- encourage a sense of responsibility and purpose towards self and others
Schools will also ensure that the staff are in sync with these programs and consider them to be an integral part to make these successful. Thus when school leaders, teachers and other members have the necessary tools and resources, they will model and promote behaviors that encourage emotional wellbeing, inclusivity, respect for one another and core life-values. This will impact not only overall maintenance of mental health but also influence their respective learning communities and improve academic achievement.