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The Role of Education in Mental Wellness for All

Updated: Oct 3, 2022

Metis hosts quarterly events. Stay tuned for the next one!

COVID has highlighted what many of us have suspected. There is a parallel, often invisible, mental health pandemic impacting many learners and leaders. In light of this, how can we support mental wellness in and out of schools? Metis hosted 50 practitioners, educators, and advocates to discuss this on April 8th. The gathering featured four diverse panelists: a student activist creating mental wellness clubs across Kenyan universities, the co-founder of a dance-based life skills organization in Kibera, a public health expert, and a leadership expert at KEMI, the agency of the Ministry of Education tasked with training education leaders.

Participants brought a wealth of knowledge and experience. There were lively debates, sometimes opposing opinions, and a great sense of energy towards working within and beyond government to build resilience, awareness, and holistic wellness for learners and teachers alike. In the chat, people exchanged tools, resources, and contact information. "There are so many of us who care about this topic. There is actually a lot going on in this space, but I just didn't know, so it's great to be a part of this forum to gain more knowledge,“ shared, one participant.

Participants agreed that one key way to improve mental wellness is authentic relationships between learners and teachers. Pictured here, Dennis Omollo and his learners (pre-COVID). His organization, Teaching Well, aims to equip teachers to do just that!

If you weren't able to join, take heart! Here are some key takeaways from the discussion:

Small changes can make a big difference.

  • Mindfulness activities, body scans, simply asking "How are you, really?" and listening to the answer can build awareness and wellness.

We need to equip teachers...

  • Teacher training at the national level should extend beyond academics

  • "Teachers can't pour from an empty cup", said one participant. We need to support educators to take care of themselves.

  • Optimal learning can't happen if young people are struggling emotionally and socially.

...but not overburden them or make them play the role of mental health professional.

Over 50 participants engaged in a lively discussion on how we can support mental wellness.

  • Counseling services need to be more widely accessible for learners

  • Idea: psychologists should be at every school

  • Question: how can we reduce the stigma associated with counseling?

We need to demystify mental health.

  • How might we combat stigma and raise awareness about the commonality of mental health struggles?

  • How do we help people get the help they need?

  • How do we as Africans reconcile our cultural identities with all of this?

We need to create safe spaces.

  • Students and teachers need safe spaces to relate as humans and to connect with each other authentically.

  • Mental health clubs can play a role

  • On the flip side, many struggle in silence-kids and adults alike.

  • We need to reimagine masculinity. Often boys are raised to "just be strong"

We can leverage technology.

  • Apps and hotlines can enable access to mental health support in times of crisis.

  • Technology can also help kids practice mindfulness and meditation in and out of the classroom.

We need to continue learning from each other and collaborating for greater impact.

  • We need to contextualize our approaches to our situations and schools, but we can adapt from the work of others to avoid reinventing the wheel.

We have the opportunity to reorient our school systems towards greater mental wellness for all. What role will you play?

At Metis, we hope to connect you to the tools, resources, and most importantly--the COMMUNITY you need to innovate with impact in your community.

Join a supportive community of education innovators in our Facebook group here.

To learn more and have all your questions about the Fellowship answered, register for our Live Q+A on April 15th here.

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