Should mental health be a part of the school syllabus?

“Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.” ― Aristotle


The children of today are experiencing a whole new world, a world that is very different from the past generation. They are in an environment where the rules of social engagement have drastically changed and are now heavily determined by technology. The internet is flooded with too much information and social media has become a new space for people, especially young kids to seek validation. And as if all that was not enough already, the advent of Covid 19 has brought a major paradigm shift in the mode and the delivery of learning so much so that the leaders and the policymakers are now reconsidering the future of education.


Mental health issues in kids and adolescents


Adolescence is a unique and formative stage of development during which multiple changes take place not just in their physical body but in their emotional wellbeing. This transition is a part of their growth but it is also a phase of vulnerability that can be overwhelming at times. To understand the depth of the problem, let’s have a look at the statistics published by the World Health Organization in November 2021.


  • Globally, one in seven 10‐19‐year‐olds experiences a mental disorder, accounting for 13% of the global burden of disease in this age group.
  • Depression, anxiety, and behavioral disorders are among the leading causes of illness and disability among adolescents.
  • Suicide is the fourth leading cause of death among 15‐19 year‐olds.


The data is disturbing, to say the least. The worst thing that happens to teenagers is that so much of their feelings get invalidated because they are teenagers. Because they are kids, we have this perception that ‘Oh! it might be the hormones’, that ‘they’ll just grow out of it’, or ‘it's just a problem phase’. But what if it’s not a problem phase? What if they just walked themselves into a lifelong disorder?


How can schools make a difference?


Kids and young adults who remain untreated tend to suffer profound consequences throughout their lives. They will fail or drop out of schools, become addicted, or be involved in a juvenile justice system. They struggle in finding their way out as adults, face employment issues, difficulty in relationships, or even parenting for the young kids. Schools can change the trajectory by addressing these problems through early intervention.


Providing access to mental health care in our primary and secondary schools will help teach our kids, their parents, and the teachers to recognize when the child is unwell and how to get them help. Teaching them how to control their emotions, their thoughts, their moods, and their feelings are important.


They need to understand that it is normal for brains to sometimes get sick and that when they do, it will affect how they think, how they feel, and how they act. Teachers, counselors, and guides can help the kids to be more expressive so that they are able to communicate their feelings and emotions and are open to talking about mental health. When they understand that mental illness is normal, children will not develop a stigma.


Let’s imagine a scenario of a mental health literate school when an 8th grader begins to struggle.


Riya recognizes that her friend Sameer is not acting like himself for the past few days, he is sitting all alone not talking to anyone. She feels compassion for him. She doesn’t tease or reject or bully him. Riya understands his situation and embraces her friend. She doesn’t hesitate to approach and talk to Sameer about his mental health and she knows that she can take him to her teacher for more help.


The teacher talks to Sameer’s parents who are also mental health literate because they’ve learned this at school and are happy to take advantage of the resources available at school. They feel safe to share their own observations about Sameer from home. And though they might be worried and even afraid for their son, they know that they have the entire school community behind them, they are not alone.


Most children are probably okay but there are groups of kids and young adults who are perhaps more vulnerable now than ever and it is vital for us and the policymakers to put provisions in place. Working towards the creation of mental health literate schools can be an effective step in this direction.

Can the school curriculum be modified?


Schools play an important role in promoting mental health resilience. Schools offer a safe and secure environment that promotes their psychosocial health. Schools and teachers can inspire kids to redefine academic success by helping them develop behavior that is kinder and community‐oriented. Schools can play an active role in providing access to life skill training programs and programs that improve skill building such as problem‐solving and cognitive development that can help in decreasing mental health disorders.


Embedding wellbeing in the curriculum and teaching our young people what to expect in the real world is essential. Hiring a counselor is not enough anymore, the school curriculum should teach young kids,


  • To acknowledge negative emotions
  • To be physically active and be as close to nature as possible
  • To be mindful and engage in meaningful pursuits
  • To work on positive emotions


Instilling such lessons when they are young will help them carry these lessons to their adulthood and this is critical because this is the time when they are at high risk. Once these kids move out of their homes it is much harder to know what’s going on in their lives let alone what’s going on in their minds. We must invest today in promoting mental health not just for today’s generation but for our future generations as well. If steps are taken in this direction, eventually we will be a mental health literate society where each one of us will be looking out for one another.


If we were to imagine a future for our children, without any doubt all of us would aspire for a future that is happy. A world where the children are resilient and make a positive contribution to others. But the question remains, How desperate are we to seek change in the area of well-being?


Our Company WAI (Who Am I) has been striving since 2015 to help kids identify their inborn potential through various methods and work on their memory, concentration, and creativity during the process. We hope this blog was able to provide some valuable insight. If you have questions or need additional information or support, please feel free to contact us at