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School Wellness Team, Identifying Vulnerable Students: Education Ministry’s Guidelines On Suicide Prevention

It is important to encourage peer support, organising activities on a regular basis for relaxing and reducing stress

School Wellness Team, Identifying Vulnerable Students In MoE Draft Guidelines On Suicide Prevention
Students go through many transitions during their school life which can cause extreme stress

New Delhi: Setting up wellness teams, identifying students exhibiting warning signs and those at risk of self-harm and supporting them are part of the draft guidelines prepared by the Union Ministry of Education for schools to prevent student suicides. With “Every Child Matters” as the underlying belief in developing the guidelines, the draft details directions to schools for enhancing sensitivity and understanding and providing support in case of reported self-harm. The draft accessed by PTI also emphasises nurturing partnerships between schools, parents and the community, fostering societal support as a critical strategy for preventing suicides and reducing the stigma associated with suicidal behaviour.

Discarding damaging notions, including comparisons with peers, the perception of failure as permanent and the sole measurement of success based on academic performance, have also been recommended in the draft, besides locking empty classrooms, lighting up dark corridors and cleaning gardens and areas with excess growth of grass.

The draft for UMMEED (Understand, Motivate, Manage, Empathise, Empower, Develop) guidelines comes at a time when a record number of students preparing for engineering and medical entrance exams in coaching hub Kota have committed suicides in 2023.

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A School Wellness Team (SWT) may be formed under the leadership of the School Principal, where each member of SWT is oriented in handling crisis situations. When a student displaying warning signs has been identified by any stakeholder, they need to be reported to the SWT, which takes immediate action. The guidelines said,

The SWT will also play an important role in implementation of school activities directed towards creating awareness about mental well-being, leading towards suicide prevention. However, SWT alone will not suffice in a school’s efforts towards prevention of suicide and would require the support of all stakeholders.

It has also been recommended that depending on the resources available within the school, the SWT be reconstituted on a regular basis to give all stakeholders in the school the opportunity to build awareness and capacity.

Additionally, it is important for the school to review the effectiveness of the SWT and its functioning on an annual basis, the guidelines said.

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Students go through many transitions during their school life which can cause extreme stress, for example, transition from home to school, from one school to another, school to college, losing a parent, sibling, friend, near and dear one, etc. The guidelines noted,

Along with this, children also experience changes as they progress through the developmental stages, leading to concerns such as those related to physical changes and appearance, peer pressure, career decisions, academic pressure, and many more. Amidst these challenges, a single insensitive comment has the potential to inflict lasting harm.

The draft further recommended that in order to effectively prevent suicides and ensure appropriate and timely response in situations of crisis, schools must actively work towards building the capacity of all stakeholders which includes teachers and school staff, students, families of students and others. The draft guidelines stated,

An important step in this direction is to enhance their knowledge and encouraging peer support, organising activities on a regular basis for relaxing and reducing stress, providing channels for expression, compiling resources to seek support, integrating mental well-being in school functioning, creating a safe environment in school and beyond including vigilance at railway tracks, river banks, bridges, cliffs, medical shops, etc.

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(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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