Fighting mental health stigma one class at a time
After survey reveals that 71 per cent of its students are stressed, Pune college launches unique counselling programme
Poor body image is one of the reasons for depression and stress among college-going girls, a Pune college has found in a recently held survey. St Mira's College for Girls in Koregoan Park, which has around 3,000 students, had conducted a survey to understand the factors affecting mental health of patients. Following results of the survey, the college has introduced a 'Mental Health Well-being' programme.
GH Gidwani, principal of the college, said, "Over the last few years, we've noticed an alarming increase in mental health-related illnesses. We wanted to understand what's affecting our students. We prepared a Google form and posted it on our website. Around 860 girls filled the form."
Of the girls surveyed, 71 per cent said they were stressed, 36.2 per cent claimed to have anxiety, and 43 per cent, anger issues. Phone addiction (29.9 per cent), poor body image (19 per cent), loneliness (30.9 per cent) and lack of communication between parents and teens were some of the factors responsible for their condition.
Incidentally, 749 of the students surveyed said they needed counselling. Following the survey, the college decided to introduce an intensive mental health awareness programme, which includes counselling and intervention. Every student was asked to pay a nominal amount of R500 that gives them access to unlimited counselling sessions by certified counsellors and psychiatrists, through the academic year.
The programme will follow a three-tier structure—promotion (creating awareness), prevention (counselling) and intervention (therapy). The college already has part-time counsellors, including clinical psychologist Nupur Dhakephalkar.
Prof Dr Jaya Rajagopalan, head of the department of psychology said, "Unless we begin to acknowledge that mental well-being and coping is an integral part of our curriculum, educators will not be able to provide students essential skills for living."
A student, on condition of anonymity, shared, "I never got a platform to express my feelings, which caused me to indulge in self-harm. The awareness sessions made me realise how I could use simple techniques to make myself feel better."
Amount a student has to pay annually for the programme
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