Teach Sri Lanka

Promoting Mental Health Education in Sri Lankan Schools

Let’s remember that understanding our feelings is something that needs to be instilled within us from a young age. Becoming aware of how we feel is one of our greatest strengths. Understanding and listening to the voices in our head, and making sense of them rather than letting the chatter become consistent noise, will give us a better understanding of why we feel the way we do. Seeking and continually diving into the ‘why’ behind our feelings helps us tune into our true emotions.

Mental Health Awareness Week is not just about destigmatizing mental health, although this is certainly needed in our society. It’s also about becoming in tune with and listening to what the voices inside our head have to say. Our mind is not separate from our body. We can eat, sleep, and drink well, but if our mind is not truly connected to our body, then we are not truly aware.

The Importance of Mental Health Education

In Sri Lanka, integrating mental health education into the school curriculum is essential. Schools play a crucial role in shaping the mental and emotional well-being of students. By teaching mental health, schools can:

  1. Foster Early Awareness: Introducing mental health education at a young age helps children understand and manage their emotions, recognize mental health issues early, and seek help when needed.
  2. Reduce Stigma: Education is a powerful tool in combating stigma. When students learn about mental health in a factual, open, and supportive environment, they are less likely to hold prejudiced views and more likely to support their peers.
  3. Promote Emotional Intelligence: Understanding our feelings and the reasons behind them is a significant part of emotional intelligence. Teaching students to navigate their emotions and mental states equips them with skills that are essential for their personal and professional lives.
  4. Encourage Healthy Coping Mechanisms: By discussing mental health openly, schools can teach students effective coping strategies for stress, anxiety, and other challenges they may face.
  5. Create a Supportive Environment: Schools that prioritize mental health create an environment where students feel safe to express their emotions and seek help. This supportive culture can lead to better academic performance and overall well-being.

Addressing the Depression Epidemic

Mental health issues are widespread in Sri Lanka, with 19.4% of the total population suffering from depression. More alarmingly, 39% of individuals aged 10-24 years are experiencing depression. This significant statistic underscores the urgent need for comprehensive mental health education and support within our schools. By addressing mental health early, we can mitigate the long-term effects of depression and other mental health disorders.

Implementing Mental Health Education in Schools

To effectively teach mental health in schools, we must:

  1. Integrate Mental Health into the Curriculum: Mental health education should be a part of the standard curriculum, similar to subjects like math or science. Topics can include emotional regulation, stress management, mindfulness, and understanding mental illnesses.
  2. Train Teachers and Staff: Teachers and school staff should receive training on how to recognize mental health issues, provide initial support, and refer students to professional help if needed.
  3. Involve Parents and Guardians: Engaging parents in mental health education ensures that students receive consistent messages about mental health at home and school. Workshops and resources for parents can help them support their children’s mental health.
  4. Provide Access to Resources: Schools should have access to mental health professionals, such as counselors and psychologists, who can provide support to students in need.
  5. Encourage Open Discussions: Creating a culture of openness around mental health encourages students to talk about their feelings and seek help without fear of judgment.

Moving Forward

Mental Health Awareness Week, reminds us to ensure we make mental health education a priority in every school in Sri Lanka. By doing so, we can help our children understand their feelings, listen to their inner voices, to help manage emotions, build healthy relationships and show empathy and understanding towards others. This holistic approach to education will not only improve mental health outcomes but also create a generation of emotionally intelligent, resilient, and compassionate individuals.

Let’s make mental health a priority.

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