Coronavirus pandemic has changed the fabric of life for millions across the globe due to lockdown and isolation orders. These unprecedented times have not only affected our economy but brought some drastic changes for our mental health as well owing to which stress, anxiety, suicidal tendencies are at an arguably high point. Society at large is subjected to enormous amount of stress caused by financial burden and loss of jobs thus mental health professionals across the globe are advising to take extra care and reconnect with life as pandemic repercussions are expected.
Coronavirus not only led to the closure of malls and shops, but educational institutions as well and subsequent lockdowns pushed schools to shift from traditional classroom system to digital mode of learning impacting over 240 million children in the country. These virtual classrooms became a question of concern for students residing in remote areas. The challenge before the administration was not only to cater to handful of fortunate students who could avail online education but also to help unfortunate ones with no internet accessibility. Presumably, students are having a hard time as the usual debate and deliberations of traditional classrooms could not be replicated in virtual classes.
Furthermore, online classes led to the steep rise in usual screen times following which Centre government issues guidelines for the same. The HRD Ministry announced guidelines called “PRAGYTA” for online classes conducted by Schools and recommended a cap on duration and number of sessions in a day. The duration for pre-primary students was notified to be not more than 30 minutes. For classes 1 to 8, the HRD Ministry recommended two online sessions of up to 45 minutes each while for classes 9 to 12, four sessions of 30-45 minutes duration were recommended.
Recently, Union Human Resource Development (HRD) Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank launched ‘Manodarpan’ initiative with the aim to provide psycho-social support and counselling to students for mental health and well-being. Directorate of School Education Jammu (DSEJ) had already constituted a psychological task force of more than 130 faculty members to strengthen the counselling set up in Jammu region. The department has also nominated around 30 District and Zonal Counselling Co-ordinators to coordinate counselling activities in ten districts of Jammu region. All the DCCs and ZCCs with psychology background will play crucial role in awareness and information dissemination regarding Manodarpan initiative. Around 15-20 counsellors are already working for tele-counselling helpline in 2-hour shifts from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. They have attended almost 4000 calls during last 3 months and helped students, parents, and teachers in mitigating their psychological needs.
Director School Education, Jammu, Anuradha Gupta, during the orientation-cum-training programme interacted with officials associated with counselling and talked to them about emerging mental health concerns with specific focus on kids, adolescents, and teenagers, especially learners with disabilities.
Catering to students living in far away regions of Jammu with no internet connection, DSEJ introduced Radio Classes from 10:20 a.m. to 12.20 p.m. daily.
While talking to Jammu Links News, Head Counselling Cell DSEJ, Romesh Kumar Sharma said that the counselling cell was setup in Feb 2019, but it is being utilized to its full potential during Covid-19. He said, if any student is feeling distressed, he/she can call at tele-counselling helpline 600680068 (Aao Baat Kare) and can get assured help from counsellors.
He said, “ DSEJ has taken various initiatives like constituting psychological task force, nominating district and zonal counselling coordinators, starting tele-counselling helpline for psycho-social support, launch of counselling calendar, various counselling activities in DSEJ home assignments, organizing webinars on Well-being themes etc. which has helped almost 14000 students in Jammu region.”
He stressed a lot on the need for counselling and guidance on mental health to ensure young learners do not get caught up in the vortex of sadness rather stay focused and stress- free else behavioral changes are most likely in post COVID-era.
With most people quarantined at home, it is natural to feel blue in these testing days but remember, it is for the first time that you can save humans by just being a couch potato. So, enjoy the flow of life and for once, stop mental leapfrogging.