‘Teach teachers, students to regulate emotions’

Is mental well-being the public health care challenge of the 21st century?

A diagnosis has been made, and study after study appears to reinforce it.


Much of the population around the world is suffering, and young generations seem to be particularly affected.

A new report estimates that 293 million children, teenagers and young adults aged five to 24 worldwide – or one in 10 young people – are living with a mental disorder.

There’s an “urgent need to transform mental health and mental health care.”

These are the words that the World Health Organization (WHO) used to present a report on the mental health of the world’s population in June 2022.

The health authority, which at the time estimated that nearly one billion people – including 14% of adolescents – were living with a mental disorder in 2019, urged “mental health decision makers and advocates to step up commitment and action to change attitudes, actions and approaches to mental health, its determinants and mental health care.”

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Two years on, the situation remains alarming, at least in terms of the data published at global level.

A team of university researchers based in Canada and Brazil has studied the subject to provide a new overview of the situation specifically focused on children and adolescents.

Published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, their findings warn that “the period from childhood to early adulthood involves increased susceptibility to the onset of mental disorders.”

Among the key findings of this study, which is based on data from the 2019 Global Burden of Disease (GBD) survey, is “a high prevalence of mental disorders affecting children and youths.”

More than one in 10 people aged five to 24, or 293 million individuals, live with a diagnosable mental disorder worldwide.

“Around one-fifth of all disease-related disability (considering all causes) was attributable to mental disorders among this population. Additionally, this age period encompasses about one-fourth of the mental disorder burden across the entire life course,” the study states.

Some 31 million children and adolescents suffer from a substance use disorder.

The average prevalence of mental disorders is estimated at 6.8% for 5-9 year olds, 12.4% for 10-14 year olds, 13.96% for 15-19 year olds, and 13.63% for 20-24 year olds.

“We are betraying our children”

The study’s findings echo a report recently published by The Academy of Medical Sciences, which calls for “urgent action” to address “failing child health” in the United Kingdom.

The child health experts behind the work point to “major health issues,” including infant mortality, obesity, and dental health, and estimate the cost of inaction on children’s health to be at least £16 billion (over USD$20 billion) a year.

MANY generations of students and teachers in Malaysia were not explicitly taught social-emotional skills.

This, said Nalissa Suria (pic), does not mean they are socially incompetent or are unable to show empathy.


“It’s just that they may not have been exposed to expressing their emotions in a healthy and constructive way, which includes identifying what they are feeling, using the appropriate words to describe how they feel, and taking the necessary steps to deal with their emotions,” she told StarEdu.

As a result, the Arus Academy programme lead added, educators often resort to punishments because they’re perceived as an easy way out.“Punishments tell the children that what they did was wrong and for that reason, they are being punished.


“But we are lacking a very important step, which is to have that difficult and often uncomfortable conversation to explain to the children why what they did was wrong, to understand why they decided to do it, and to then figure out a more appropriate response to the situation, which is agreed by both the adults and children,” she said.

Nalissa, who initiated a project called Social and Emotional Learning for All (SEL4A) last year to kickstart the SEL movement in the country, said the ultimate goal of SEL is for one to be able to regulate emotions.

This, she explained, means having the ability to bring oneself back to a neutral state after feeling a strong positive or negative emotion. Stressing the importance of cultivating social-emotional skills among educators, she said many unfortunate situations such as the recent slapping incident by a volleyball coach happen because one is not able to control one’s emotions.


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Through the SEL4A project, Nalissa established ARUS x BJCK (Buku Jalanan Chow Kit) as the model school for SEL in the classroom.

To date, the project has benefited 101 teachers, programme associates and officers from 32 organisations, which include private and public schools, alternative learning centres and the Education Ministry.

Nalissa said the core of SEL skills is all about building good relationships with oneself and with others.

“I acknowledge that equipping ourselves and our children with SEL skills takes time, and time is something educators do not have a lot of.

“But I believe it will be worthwhile in the long run because SEL skills are a time-maker, not a time-taker,” she said.In a video posted by Arus Academy on its YouTube channel, Education Ministry Curriculum Development Division (Social Science Sector) deputy director Fazlinah Said said SEL could be one of the ways in which values and characteristics could be taught effectively.

“At the end of the day, we aim for students to have a towering personality and it will take more than just academics to achieve that,” she said in the video.

Educators who are keen on equipping their children with SEL skills can join the SEL4A Malaysia Telegram Group at https://t.me/ SEL4AMalaysia for more updates.

 Adopted from The Star
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