‘Provide essential mental health support to students’

Srinagar, Nov 17: Munazah Shakeel, a Nguvu Change Leader from Srinagar has launched a campaign for providing essential mental health support to students in Jammu and Kashmir.

“Don’t assume all students have perfect mental health,” she says.

To mention, over 13,000 students died in 2021 in India at the rate of more than 35 every day. During World Mental Health Month in October, it is important to take cognisance of these grim numbers shared by National Crime Records Bureau’s (NCRB) Accidental Deaths & Suicides in India (ADSI) report.

Munazah , who says she has herself suffered mental health challenges as a student, highlights the pressing need in educational institutions to prioritise mental health by endorsing a strong SOP for mental healthcare, sensitising faculty and revitalising the Counseling & Guidance Centres.

“With programs like Tele Manas Seva, which as per the Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya, has counseled 3.5 lakh people since it was launched last year, the Health Ministry is making positive strides in building supportive infrastructure for mental health care. But this larger ecosystem needs to be reinforced with a strong localised and focused mental health care for students in educational institutions. My own personal experience of almost ending my life made me realise that students first need access to mental health care in their own schools and colleges,” Munazah says.

Her mission to “Make Mental Health Matter” in academic institutions is rooted in her own experience.

“Universities need to recognize and address the challenges students face in an academic system that puts students with disabilities and mental health issues at a disadvantage. It assumes that all students have perfect mental health, which is not the case. Despite claims of inclusiveness, the reality often falls short.”

Through her petition, she is asking the universities to implement a strong mental health Standard Operating Procedure (SOP), sensitise faculty and staff to mental health issues, create a more empathetic environment, and lastly, revive and strengthen the Counseling & Guidance Centre to support student well-being.

“Mental health infrastructure for students in universities is often inadequate and there is a dearth of mental health professionals on campuses. Educational institutions must destigmatize mental health challenges, refrain from judgement and discrimination and provide a supportive environment where all students feel safe and nurtured,” she said.

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