Academic journal article Journal of Psychosocial Research

Mental Health Concerns of Students and Teachers in Higher Education in India

Academic journal article Journal of Psychosocial Research

Mental Health Concerns of Students and Teachers in Higher Education in India

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

We are at a critical moment in Indian history. Never has higher education been more important to India's long-term economic well-being and social progress than it is today. There is unprecedented demand for and greater diversification of education, as well as an increased sense of awareness that this century can change fortune for India through the leadership in knowledge based world economy. Government's efforts should not merely be to expand the facilities and reach, but, equally important, to make college life for both students and teachers more satisfying academically and personally.

To meet personal and national economic objective besides the philosophical goal of self-realization, the journey of the student through the higher education should be made conducive for skill acquisition and self-development. The students are in adolescent age (17-20 years) when they enter the college. Students face developmental challenges typical of this age. They need proper supervision and guidance. There is abundant research on problems related to college students in the West (Royal College of Psychiatrists, 2003; Kitzrow, 2003; Harrison et al., 1999; Kelly et al., 2001; Ryan, 2004; Trockel et al., 2000) who report that there is an increase in the incidence of mental health problems in higher education, leading to disruptive and disabling effect on the students' ability to study and learn, and on retention and academic performance. Looking to the needs of the students, most colleges in USA and UK have proper framework of counseling and guidance. Unfortunately, very little attention is paid to this issue in India and there is no regulatory requirement to establish counseling centers in colleges and universities.

University Grant Commission (UGC) has come out with a number of objectives of higher education in each Five Year Plan. The 11th Plan approach paper of UGC has set up, among others, the objective of expansion, inclusiveness (equity), promotion of quality and excellence. There is, however, no acknowledgement or proposal to address mental health problems of students as well as those of teachers in universities and colleges. Surprisingly, at school level most CBSE and private schools have visiting/ regular counsellors, but there is no such provision in higher education.

MENTAL HEALTH PROBLEMS AMONG STUDENTS

Mental health problem in higher education in India is real and educationists will have to include it in their agenda for planning and action. Only recently, after taking the serious note of the suicide by an IIT student, UGC decided to conduct a survey to get to the root of the factors responsible for the increase in suicidal tendency amongst students. For the very purpose the UGC has sought the help of the University of Australia. The research survey is being conducted as 'The International Youth Development Study (IYDS)."

According to M. Thirunavakarasu (The Hindu, Mar 10th, 2010) about forty per cent of children in India suffer from mental health problems. "Suicide is the sixth main cause of death in India, while in adolescents between 12 and 19 years suicide or accident are the main causes of death," he says. This is a huge number by any standards and it can be safely assumed that large population of these students is landing for higher education.

There could be personal to social to cultural reasons of mental health problems among students. Pressure of higher education, adjustment to new environment, and financial constrains can serve as precipitating factor in mental health problems. Poor time management, fear of failure, distractibility, test anxiety, social anxiety, poor study habits and self-consciousness are the factors for such behavior (Ferrari, 1991). A study by Supe (1998) on Indian student population indicated that high achievers were more under stress. This may be due to higher parental, peer and self expectations on academic performances. He found no difference in the stress on the basis of gender, stay in hostel, stressors, mode of travel and time spent in travel every day, place of school and junior college education indicating that academic achievement is more important than other factors in inducing stress in students. …

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