Efforts called for on students' mental health

Systemic pressures around education leading to negative outcomes for nation's youth

By ZHAO YIMENG | China Daily | Updated: 2024-04-18 09:23
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Students play a game in a sandbox at a school-based mental health room in Huzhou, Zhejiang, in October. YI FAN/FOR CHINA DAILY

However, some parents still have a limited understanding of depression and have strong feelings of shame. Others may only focus on their children's behavioral manifestations without considering the underlying emotional and psychological factors.

They may simplify the issue as a lack of interest in studying, adolescent rebellion or weak willpower.

Xu Ling, a political adviser and the vice-president of Guangdong Polytechnic Normal University, said she has found that collaboration among families, schools and society in tackling mental health issues of adolescents has failed to form a unified force.

Xu said schools prioritize exam-oriented education and talent cultivation over extracurricular activities. Insufficient physical activities and labor education have led students to easily fall into the trap of "self-isolation, loneliness, anxiety and depression".

"Moreover, there is a shortage of dedicated psychological counselors in schools, and teachers are not capable of identifying students' emotional crises, let alone effectively intervene," Xu said.

Many parents have excessive requirements for their children's academic achievements, with a focus on quick success, leading to conflicts between parents and children that have even escalated into suicidal incidents, she added.

"Society has yet to form a strong force to effectively support the healthy growth of adolescents," Xu said.

Because of the lack of professional personnel and resources, mental health services provided by grassroots institutions need to be improved urgently, she said. Cultural products such as online games, movies and animations that are filled with violence and vulgarity may also contribute to criminal behavior or self-harm, she added.

Political adviser Ding Zuohong said the side effects of the internet are some of the factors that lead to teenagers' psychological problems.

"As of June last year, the number of internet users under 18 had reached 191 million. Adolescents get access to harmful information through the internet. Online harassment and cyberbullying have also contributed to depression," he said.

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