The Ministry of Education, MoE, has published a set of draft guidelines for schools in order to promote sensitivity, empathy, and assistance in cases of reported self-harming behaviour among students The draft guidelines go by the acronym UMMEED which stands for Understand, Motivate, Manage, Empathise, Empower, and Develop. These guidelines have been put forward at a point in time when a number of suicides have been recorded among students who are preparing for competitive examinations like JEE and NEET in Rajasthan’s Kota. So far in 2023, there have been around 25 cases of death by suicide among students studying in Kota.
The draft guidelines for schools include steps like as establishing a School Wellness Team (SWT), recognising students displaying signs of distress and at danger of self-harm, responding quickly and helping such students, and so on. The SWT will also play an essential role in the execution of school programmes aimed at raising mental health awareness and preventing suicide. The recommendations also highlighted that, “SWT alone will not suffice in a school’s efforts towards suicide prevention and would require the support of all stakeholders.”
The composition of the School Wellness Team was also specified in the draft guidelines. The SWT will be headed by the school principals, who will lead a team comprising a school counsellor, teachers, a school medical officer or staff nurse, and other school support staff.
The guidelines stressed the need to be aware that suicide can often be an impulsive decision that might occur as a result of severe circumstances generating tremendous stress, noting that the causes of suicide are complicated and vary from person to person.
The draft guidelines read, “‘Every Child Matters’ is the underlying belief in developing the Guidelines for prevention of suicide. With this vision, efforts need to be directed towards prevention of suicide in schools. The guidelines provide directions to schools for enhancing sensitivity, understanding, and providing support in case of reported self-harm.”
The guidelines contain detailed information on Myths and Facts about Suicide, Suicide Factors, and Warning Signs of Students at Risk. To allow all school stakeholders the chance to increase knowledge and capability, it is recommended that, based on the resources available within the school, the School Wellness Team be reformed on a regular basis. Furthermore, the school should conduct an annual evaluation of the effectiveness and operation of SWT.