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Shocking enough, right? How could an institution meant to impart education be this way? Read on to learn more about how school affects mental health and its emotional toll on students.
With the awareness surrounding mental health concerns ever on the rise, children’s mental health issues have garnered a lot of attention, along with those plaguing adults.
Contrary to the age-old belief that childhood is the most stress-free age, the present reality suggests something else. A school is where children spend a large part of their day. But what if we tell you that this same abode of education is taking a heavy toll on children’s mental health?
While it is true that schools play a major role in children’s physical and mental development, over time, it has also come forward to promote a culture of academic stress and peer pressure and not give enough priority to the well-being and mental health support of the students.
1. Importance Of School And Education
There is no denying that school is a necessary institution for the progress of the community. Innumerable people count on education for a better quality of life as it enables them to get better jobs to climb higher on the socioeconomic 1ladder.
This abode of learning and the system it functions on namely school boards, are generally credited with the improved mental health of the student as it reduces the risk of financial instability in the future.
Education enables people to take better charge of their lives and support themselves and their families. However, we often see the physical and mental health of the student suffering because of the high academic pressure.
2. Who Is At High Risk Of Such Mental Health Issues
With the rising awareness around student mental health and mental health problems, it has been widely acknowledged that academic stress can affect students across ages and genders.
In the case of both high school students and younger students, such problems generally arise while trying to balance academic performance and co-curricular activities.
However, high school students are also pressured to prepare for entrance exams to get into college. Thus, high school students have to dabble with the pressure of choosing a career path while focusing on learning simultaneously.
The socio-economic background of the student also impacts their mental health needs. Students from poorer families have many more challenges to battle and are at higher risk of developing mental illness.
But mental health symptoms can also appear in children from well-to-do backgrounds due to academic pressure, expectations of parents and teachers, and peer pressure.
Therefore, behavioral disorders, depression, and anxiety-related mental health disorders have grown common among students. To address mental health issues, it becomes essential to consider the environment one is exposed to, as it has a major role.
3. How School Affects Mental Health
Several factors might take an emotional toll on kids and adversely affect their mental health2. Teachers, parents, and the school staff might contribute to students’ adverse mental health.
Most schools subject their students to an exhausting schedule that turns out to be quite taxing for children’s mental health. Not only do they have to keep in the loop with the happenings of the classroom, but a fast-paced world has made it necessary for them to juggle several other activities deemed important for their holistic development.
The classroom environment, in most cases, is centered around academics and functions on a combination of homework and exams in addition to the teaching and learning going on in the classroom.
For various reasons, many students might be unable to cope with this academic-driven system, and their mental health might deteriorate.
The inability to keep up with the demanding environment of schools results in the child lacking adequate preparation and, in turn, lower academic performance.
Apart from this, there is also pressure from parents at every step of school life. From the over-emphasis on good grades in the lower classes to the pressure of getting into good universities, students are later burdened with many expectations.
A child’s relationship with their peers and teachers is also a determining factor of their mental health. This is dependent to a large extent on the classroom performance of the child.
Lastly, mental health disorders can also plague a student due to lifestyle factors. A few of them are poor diet and sleep and lack of exercise. Other hassles, not necessarily school related, might also have a part to play, especially in the case of students from poorer backgrounds.
4. Digital Devices and Student Mental Health
With the world coming to a standstill due to the COVID-19 pandemic3, the medium of imparting education saw a complete shift from physical mode to online.
Owing to this, school students, who previously spent almost a quarter of their day at an educational institution, were confined within the four walls of their homes and spent the same amount of time in front of electronic devices.
While the younger kids missed out on formal learning of the foundational basics and a class environment for their development, high school students faced a lot of difficulty in attaining conceptual clarity due to technical glitches. Moreover, the absence of proper interaction between teachers and students has impacted students across all age groups.
This has led to a manifold increase in screen time, affecting not only the eyes and physical health but also the students’ mental health. So while technology makes learning and life, in general, a lot easier for educators and students, its toll on mental health often outweighs the benefits.
Using electronic devices and resources for educational purposes has adversely affected the ability of kids to focus and decreased their attention span.
A digital learning environment does not provide kids with the kind of peer support available in the class environment, which impacts the learning process.
Focusing solely on studies without any peer interaction or extracurricular activities does not fulfill the mental health needs of a student. This will cause the online medium to remain forever inadequate for learning purposes.
5. Ensuring Better Mental Health for Students
It has been established that mental health support for students is the need of the hour. However, what is also paramount in this case is that the students receive regular access to mental health services.
Proper mental health support for students is not the job of just the teachers or school counselors. School districts, parents and families of the student, educators and other school staff, school social workers, and school psychologists 4all have a combined role to play.
From deteriorating mental and emotional health in general to the development of more serious behavioral problems or disorders like depression and anxiety, mental health support for students should cover every such problem.
The first step towards ensuring better mental health in students is addressing the challenges the learning environment might pose and trying to implement a better alternative.
Another important step is to provide additional support in the form of special education revolving around developing emotional intelligence to improve mental health.
Regular workshops with school psychologists to make children more aware of their mental and emotional state and stress management go a long way in equipping students to deal with academic pressure better.
Along with parents, it is also a prime responsibility of the teachers to look out for symptoms of any mental health disorder, such as depression or anxiety, in students. This helps in quicker diagnosis and treatment.
Mental health issues among children, especially students, are not a myth but a tangible reality. Such issues at a developmental age can morph into much more serious and debilitating problems in adulthood.
Therefore, mental health services for students are indispensable. While a school counselor is available in most educational institutions, it is the stakeholders5‘ combined responsibility to ensure proper mental health among students.
Now that you know how school affects the mental health of children. Please share this information with your friends and let them know of this modern-day menace. Also, don’t forget to leave your thoughts on this topic in the comments below.
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- Choudhury, Snigdha, and Snigdha Pattnaik. “Emerging themes in e-learning: A review from the stakeholders’ perspective.” Computers & Education 144 (2020): 103657. ↩︎