Mental Health Policy Consent and Confidentiality Statement for School Counselling Services
BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE
Mental health is a state of well being in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community. (World Health Organization)
Mental Health influences children’s cognitive development, psycho social development and their ability to learn. Positive Mental Health ensures wellbeing and safety for the child and negative mental health experiences in the childhood lead to negative mental health impacts and problems in adulthood if left unaddressed. Mental Health Professionals inform us that nearly one in every four children is likely to need mental health support during their school lives. School, thus, is an important place to address the mental health needs of a child. The School and the parents need to work together to make the school a mental health enabling environment. We seek your support in doing so.
Our school provides counselling and mental health services as a method of ensuring that your child is able to achieve his/her educational goals, live well and is safe. This note explains:
Counselling and other mental health services available in our school.
Need to maintain confidentiality in counselling and other mental health services.
It also seeks your agreement and consent to provide these services to your child, if needed, in good faith and in the best interest of the child.
NATURE OF SERVICES
Counselling and other mental health services available in our school are of the following nature:
Universal Mental Health Services for all Children: These are services which strengthen the skills of all children to be resilient (skills to acknowledge, learn and apply one’s strengths to cope with difficulties one faces in life). These services have a training format with a structured curriculum for each grade. The process takes the form of micro workshops conducted by counselors who champion mental health in the school and specifically trained for this purpose. The curriculum and accompanying reading material is available for interested parents.
Capacity building of the teachers and other staff members: The teacher’s orientation and training is conducted in the areas of school’s vision about mental health of the students. This is an important area of professional development of the staff which is carried out throughout the year with the help of eminent trainers of the country. The focus of the teacher’s training is on the developmental and emotional issues of the children. It also focuses on the team building and self-development of the staff.
Parent Empowerment: All parents are provided an opportunity to become aware of the mental health issues, developmental issues, and other challenges faced by young people today. This is done by school mental health team with the support of empanelled mental health professionals. Interested parents can also be put in contact with structured parenting skills programs and facilitated parent support groups run by empanelled mental health professionals in the city.
School Committees: The school mental health team is a part of all the mandatory school committees. Their role is to work on sensitization and awareness building of all the stakeholders
Career Counselling: Considering the fact that the students may have conflicting thoughts about choosing a career, the department carries out several career related activities. This includes internship, inviting universities to orient the students about their programs, one on one counseling of the students and career update board.
Needs Assessment and First Aid Services: If it is seen that a child is showing early signs suggestive of psychological difficulties, a teacher or the counsellor may invite the child for a conversation to assess his/her mental health needs and status. This would be summarized in the form of an Individual Care Plan. In such a situation, the counsellors will also provide initial support and mental health first aid to the level of their competence. If the child agrees to involve the parents at this stage a face to face meeting is arranged with the parents and the Individual Care Plan is shared with the parent. If the child does not want parental participation at this stage the child is continued to be supported and is gradually encouraged to involve the parents to be a part of the process. In a high risk situation, the parents are called immediately, they are informed about the situation and the child is then handed over to the parental custody.
Walk in services and First Response Services: Any child can walk into the Mental Health Resource Center (Counsellor/Special Educator’s Office) at the school to seek information, support and help, if the child is undergoing any emotional distress. In such a situation, trained counsellors provide empathetic listening, address immediate difficulties and assess needs for further help. A child may also disclose his or her need to a friend or a teacher and he/she could further support the child to access the counselling/mental health services at the school.
Peer Counselling/Mentoring Service: Rendered by Class mates of the child and students senior to the child
Mentoring Service: Successful professionals, alumni and parent volunteers provide real life information on potential career paths.
Reasonable Accommodations for Children with Mental Health Problems: changes in teaching practices and expectations, assessment, flexibility in attendance and changes in classroom environment to ensure that the child remains included in mainstream education. Special educators create individualized educational plan with the help of teachers and parents, one to one sessions are carried out for the children, scribe/extra time is provided during the exam, linking them to the specialized educational or other professional support. Infrastructural changes are done based on the need of the child.
Referral Service and Signposting: In case a child needs further help beyond the initial intervention, the child and the parents are referred to recognized mental health services. The parents have the right to choose any service they may consider appropriate.
It is generally observed that some children may not want their parents to be involved in counselling. Mental health professionals’ guidance is that it is important to assure the child a confidential counselling/mental health service. We can assure confidentiality to your child only with your prior consent.
Assurance of Confidentiality to the child implies that the conversations between the counselling service/mental health service and your child will remain between him/ her and the counselling team and their supervisors.
If your child chooses that he/ she wants an Assurance of Confidentiality, then what he/ she shares during the counselling process will not be shared with you or anyone unless:
The child wishes for you to know about the process and details of counselling at the school
The counsellor or the mental health team or the school Principal or their nominee feels that the child is at risk to himself/herself or others and there is a clear and present danger to the child’s best interest.
There is a need for mental health help beyond the capacity of the school mental health team/ counsellors
There is statutory requirement to inform the legal authorities due to disclosure of bullying, violence or abuse.
If the counsellor/mental health team feels that they need to break confidentiality, they will first inform the child about the need to do so and encourage the child to inform the parent with the support of mental health team/ counsellor.
MANAGING RISK AND MANDATORY REPORTING
If a child is at risk of violence, abuse, neglect or maltreatment, the counsellor/ mental health team will assess risk and make a collaborative plan with you and the child for mitigating the risk. If the risk is such that the child requires legal safeguarding or there is need for mandatory reporting to statutory authorities (such as Child Welfare Committee or law enforcement), the counsellor will involve the assigned Child Protection Officer in the School. All matters requiring mandatory reporting or where a child is facing a clear and present danger will be reported to the Principal of the School immediately by the designated Child Protection Officers of the school.
If the nature of difficulties or needs is such that the child does not need safeguarding, the child will be offered a period of reflection and encouraged to involve their parents at their own pace.
CHAMPIONS OF THE POLICY
The Senior Management Champion
The Teacher Champions
The Parent Champions
The Peer Champions
Designated Child Protection Officer
The school takes utmost responsibility for its students, by ensuring that their varying needs are attended to by a professional team of counselors and special educators, working in collaboration with management, staff, parents and students.
While the counseling team will bring in professional skills, collective reflective practice and perspectives, however, it is realistic given the enormity of the task to state that optimal functioning and effective impact will only be possible with the involvement of all the stakeholders.
Despite all the best efforts, no adult intervention however professional can guarantee the prevention of certain casualities. However, this will not deter the timely intervention and total commitment to addressing the social emotional and intellectual issues of the students.
Please do ask us if you have any further questions regarding the mental health policy and confidentiality statement.
Please take a moment to enable us to provide mental health or counselling services to your child, if needed. Please authorize us to do so through signing the attached Prior Consent form.
This document was jointly prepared by school counsellors from St. Mary's, Safdarjung Enclave, Step by Step, Shiv Nader, Mother's International, G. D. Goenka, Sanskriti, Ramjas, Bluebells International, Sardar Patel Vidyalaya, Ms. Gloria Burrett, Psychotherapist, Ms. Bharati- Team Saarthak & Ms. Shomona Khanna, Advocate- Supreme Court.
We are grateful to Dr. Achal Bhagat and Team Saarthak who edited and fine tuned this document to give it its final shape.