The Smiling Schools Project
The Smiling Schools Project
An Initiative by Project Mumbai in Collaboration with the MCGM
Project Mumbai is a Mumbai-based not-for-profit institution engaged in improving the quality of life of people in Mumbai. In February 2019, Project Mumbai signed an MoU with the government of Maharashtra, to create a mental wellness curriculum for adolescents, parents, and educators, thus giving birth to the Smiling Schools Project.
A growing body of research shows that a negative school environment is directly related to poor student attendance. Moreover, it severely undermines students’ capacity to learn and dramatically increases the likelihood that they will develop significant psychosocial problems over time. On the contrary, students receiving support from their teachers and peers are likely to have positive self-esteem and fewer depressive symptoms. Thus, the school environment is a major contributing factor to student mental well-being. In India, there is a lot of stigma and misinformation about mental health. Further, one in every five Indians lives with clinical depression, which has been found to have an onset as early as pre-adolescence.
Although in recent years, there has been a growing realization of the urgent need to substantially introduce mental health education in educational institutions at all levels, Indian schools have programs that pause at life skills which cover topics like communication, interpersonal relationships, and career awareness. While these programs benefit students, there is very little done to begin a dialogue on mental illness and well-being, self-care of students and whom they can go to for further support, possibly intensifying the extant stigma.
The Project Mumbai Team believes that appropriate Mental Health Education could end this stigma, sensitize school stakeholders about mental illness prevention and coping, and highlight the importance of participation of the entire community in creating physically and mentally safer schools. With this as its basis, the five-year Smiling Schools Project aims to advocate for a safe learning environment for all students, through awareness creation and capacity building among all school stakeholders – including principals, teachers, students, parents, and school counselors – to respond to mental health challenges.
In its first year of implementation, the Smiling Schools Project will reach out to 150 schools, close to 600 teaching staff, 12,000 students, 12,000 parents, and approximately 50 counselors. By the end of its course, the Project will have covered approximately 1050 schools, and over 2 lakh students, parents, and staff members, thoroughly covering topics such as bullying, teacher-student relationships, and peer relationships, happiness and wellbeing, stress and coping emotional regulation, and self-care. This project will employ a ‘train-the-trainer’ model, wherein facilitators from partner organizations will receive training from Project Mumbai Mental Health staff on a set curriculum that has been approved by a distinguished Advisory Board, who will, in turn, educate school stakeholders through monthly training and review meetings held in the schools.
Our Training and Implementation Partners include Apnishala, Institute for Exceptional Children (IEC), L&T, Prafulta and Teach For India. Such collaboration will ensure commitment to the cause of mental health and wellness from the very best in the field of education, health, and governance.