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student suicides: ‘UMMEED’: Here is how govt plans to reduce stress and suicides among students

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In an effort to address the rising concern of self-harm and suicide among students, the Ministry of Education (MoE) recently unveiled a set of draft guidelines aimed at enhancing sensitivity, understanding, and support in such cases. The draft guidelines, known as Understand, Motivate, Manage, Empathise, Empower, Develop (UMMEED), have been released at a time when the city of Kota, known for its coaching hubs preparing students for engineering and medical entrance exams, has witnessed a rising number of student suicides in 2023.

These guidelines, based on the principle of “Every Child Matters,” are currently open for public feedback and provide clear directions for schools to improve their handling of self-harm cases. The proposed measures include the establishment of a School Wellness Team (SWT) responsible for identifying students displaying warning signs and those at risk of self-harm, responding promptly to their needs, and providing support.

The guidelines also stress the importance of fostering partnerships among schools, parents, and the community to create a robust support network aimed at preventing suicide and reducing the stigma associated with suicidal behavior.

Furthermore, the draft guidelines advocate for the elimination of harmful concepts, such as comparing students with their peers, perceiving failure as permanent, and solely equating success with academic performance. They also recommend practical steps like securing empty classrooms, improving lighting in dark corridors, and maintaining well-kept gardens and outdoor areas.

According to the guidelines, “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 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.”Depending on the resources available within the school, the guidelines recommend that the SWT be reconstituted regularly to allow all school stakeholders the opportunity to build awareness and capacity. Additionally, schools are advised to review the effectiveness of the SWT and its functioning on an annual basis.The guidelines acknowledge that students undergo multiple transitions in their school life, such as moving from home to school or school to college, experiencing loss, and facing various developmental challenges. These challenges, including physical changes, peer pressure, career decisions, and academic pressure, can be overwhelming. The guidelines emphasize that even a single insensitive comment can have a lasting impact.

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