Mumbai: Soon, teachers and principals of all the civic-run-schools across the city will be counselled and given training to identify children suffering from depression or other mental health issues. It is the first-of-its-kind initiative undertaken by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) for which they have tied up with Tata Institute of Social Science (TISS) and a non-governmental organisation (NGO) project Mumbai.
The move comes after the discovery of rising cases of mental illness or anxiety among schoolchildren. A study by the King Edward Memorial (KEM) Hospital in 2018 revealed high prevalence of anxiety among city schoolkids. The study, led by the paediatric and clinical pharmacology departments of the hospital, found that one in 10 students, between the ages of 8 and 15 years, were suffering from anxiety. While the older students between 12 and 15 years of age, one in five reported anxiety.
“To address the issue, we have collaborated with mental wellness institutions across Mumbai. They will counsel as many as 1,200 BMC schools and over 3,00,000 adolescents over the next five years. The initiative, ‘Smiling Mumbai’, will help children fight mental health problems and bring smile to their faces,” said an official.
In its first year of implementation, the Smiling Schools Project will reach out to 150 schools, 600 teaching staff, 12,000 students, 12,000 parents and nearly 50 counsellors. They will cover topics such as bullying, teacher-student and peer relationships, happiness and well-being, stress and coping emotional regulation, and self-care. The project will employ a ‘train-the-trainer’ model, wherein facilitators from partner organisations will receive training from Project Mumbai Mental Health team and experts on a set of curriculum, which has been put together through a widely consultative process with all the implementation partners.
Shishir Joshi, CEO and Founder, Project Mumbai, said it is a challenge, which needs to be addressed. There is a dire need of awareness, which can be spread through school teachers and principals, who need to come forward in large numbers to get counselled. “The initiative aims to be multi-stakeholder holistic, targeting teachers, parents, counsellors and school leaders. Apart from children, there would be a lot of emphasis in providing self-help assistance to teachers as well, helping them to cope with their own issues at home and work,” said Joshi.