Pakistan has a growing mental health crisis with an estimated 50 million people experiencing mental health issues but unable to access support due to the stigma, low-awareness and a lack of support services. At present, mental health is not part of the curriculum for trainee doctors or other health professionals. Consequently, almost 90% of those in need of treatment in the country have no access to any kind of support.
The British Asian Trust’s School Mental Health Project (SMHP), in partnership with Duke’s Education Foundation and Global Institute of Human Development of Shifa Tameer-e-Millat University is changing all that, we have trained over 160 teachers from 40 public schools to identify basic mental health issues in the classroom, provide basic support and make referrals. This helps provide a positive school environment which promotes good mental health for our youth and supports prevention and early intervention so problems do not escalate.
A school where SMHP was implemented has witnessed unprecedented positive changes overall, and significant improvements among the teachers, enhancing their teaching abilities and effectiveness.
Before joining the programme, the teachers faced challenges in interacting with students, often misinterpreting aggressive behaviour as mere misbehaviour and defiance. However, the SMHP training provided them with a deeper understanding of children's behaviour, leading to a significant shift in their approach. Rather than resorting to immediate reprimands, the teachers now prioritise open dialogue with students, seeking to understand their circumstances and foster positive relationships.
The training has helped build stronger connections between the school, parents and families. Previously, teachers often overlooked personal circumstances that could be impacting a child's academic journey. Now teachers not only address academic performances but also think about the child's overall socio-emotional development. This empathetic and comprehensive approach has fostered stronger partnerships between teachers and families, leading to effective collaboration too.
Remarkable improvements have also been observed in teachers addressing students who are displaying challenging behaviour. By understanding the underlying reasons behind such behaviour and providing additional attention these teachers have resulted in noticeable changes in their behaviour, providing a sense of fulfilment and success for the school.
By prioritising mental health, the British Asian Trust's SMHP has empowered teachers and nurtured the well-being of students.