Syed Rizwan Geelani
Srinagar, Oct 14: Amid rising concerns related to mental health and drug abuse in Jammu and Kashmir, the majority of private schools in J&K are yet to appoint student counsellors as mandated by the government guidelines.
The issue has come to light through various surveys and studies depicting teenagers were more involved in substance abuse, throwing a major challenge for the government.
A study conducted by the Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (IMHANS) Kashmir, Government Medical College (GMC), Srinagar found that over two-thirds of the patients start substance abuse in the age group of 11-20 years.
As per the study, nicotine addiction figures at the top as the survey has found that the most common substances of abuse identified included nicotine (94.4 percent), medicinal opioids (65.7 percent), cannabis (63.6 percent), and benzodiazepines (45.5 percent).
Besides, the study has found that 43.4 percent of addicts consume other prescription medications, alcohol (32.5 percent), inhalants (11.1 percent), and cocaine (7.5 percent).
The report has called for the availability of counsellors in all government and private schools to ensure the mental and physical well-being of the students besides taking care of their career planning.
However, it has come to the fore that the majority of the schools have not hired counsellors for the students, raising questions on the school management in ensuring the mental wellbeing of the students.
Talking to Greater Kashmir, Director of School Education Kashmir, Tasaduq Hussain Mir acknowledged that drug abuse was on a rise at an alarming rate but said that the department had trained health counselors in schools.
“We have 10 counsellors in each district. Besides we have a proper counseling cell at the directorate as well,” he said.
However, Mir said that some top-notch private schools had already started working on it and hired a counselor for the mental well-being of the students.
“But most private schools do not have these counsellors. We have planned to hold a seminar on the issue in the coming days. We will rope in private schools in the seminar and issue instructions to them for keeping counsellors in their schools,” he said.
Mir said that the department had already convened a meeting regarding the availability of counselors in schools and taken up the matter with IMHANS.
President of Private Schools Association J&K (PSAJK) Ghulam Nabi Var told Greater Kashmir that complaints of substance abuse were reported from several schools for which the concerned schools were taking measures for the mental well-being of the students.
“There has to be a health counsellor in all the schools as per NEP-2020 to ensure the mental well-being of students in schools. It is a fact that many cases of drug abuse were reported from some schools,” he said.
Var said that private schools remain disturbed by the official interference from the government wherein the management remains engaged in obtaining and producing different NoCs from different departments.
“Resultantly, crucial areas take a backseat as schools are not able to concentrate on these issues,” he said.
Var said that the school teachers could keep a watch on the students by doing a routine check of the school bags.
“Joint efforts are needed to curb the menace in schools. The government and private sector have to work together,” he said.
Notably, physical and mental health concerns have been addressed by the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 which emphasises well-trained social workers, counsellors, and community involvement in the school system.
Also, 25 national focus groups have been constituted for 25 focus areas which include health and well-being as one of the areas and to cover the social, emotional, and mental health of the students.