Mentoring the peers

Rising incidence of student suicides has led to many steps being taken to tackle stress and anxiety among them. Prachi Rege attends a workshop where student ambassadors are trained to peer-mentor their colleagues to rise above life's low point

The exam season is fast approaching and students are feeling the heat. The air is palpable with anxiety as preparations are in full swing. Students are struggling to meet the deadlines for routine class tests, projects and assignments. There is an exponential increase in their stress levels. Though multi-tasking is primarily a corporate mantra, school students also have to follow the same drill. In order to prevent them from succumbing to depression before exams, the SL Raheja Fortis Hospital, Mahim, has initiated the Pro-social Peer Moderator Programme.

Students from 16 schools in Mumbai participated in this workshop held recently. Each school had deputed three of their best and well-mannered students who were trained under the supervision of their teacher or principal. According to Dr Samir Parikh, director, Mental Health, Fortis Healthcare, "In a country like India, where there is humongous population and a dearth of expert counsellors, mentoring works well to reach out to more people."
Parikh, who for the last decade has conducted such workshops across the country, says that there is an increase in instances of seeking help from family or friends. As a result the need for such a session is important. The person needs to be an expert especially when it is a child which is seeking help. "Hence, more the number of mentors spread out in the community the better it is," he says.

  • This interactive session helped Ameya Sangle to understand the concept of 'nipping the problem in its bud'. "Share your feelings with people around you. Create a confidant who listens to all you have to say. Don't keeep your anxious thoughts bottled up in your mind," says Sangle, a class IX student of St Anthonys Boys High School, Santacruz. He now looks forward to share this basic tenet with his class and schoolmates. As for managing studies and avoiding stress before exams, Sangle has learnt that if he follows a strict study schedule and focus systematically on all class activitites he will be able to manage his student life better. Teachers at the event were glad that the concept of 'not wasting time' was reinforced by the programme co-ordinators. Bonifacia Lobo, headmistress, St Andrew's High School, Bandra, says, "This served as the much needed motivation for both me and my students." Rajendra Devkule, teacher at St Anhony's Boys High School wants such a session to be held on his school campus. "I come across lot of students who can't cope up with their studies and then the fear of failure grips them. Such training will help students to handle time and stress effectively," he predicts. Besides the training to tackle exam anxiety, other life-skills activities like aggression management and media literacy were also on the agenda. Trained mentors got certificates at the end of each session, which were conducted in a span of three months. "With our current lifestyle, aggression is also a problem that prevails among students. Filtering correct information through various media that they are exposed to is also an essential aspect of life skill training," says Dr Parikh.

Exam stress-busting secrets:

Before the exam:

  • Make a study schedule
  • Evaluate yourself with self-tests
  • Stay heatlhy with a good diet and physical activity
  • Take out time for lesiure activity
  • Engage in positive discussions
  • Do not compare with others

During the Exam:

  • Settle down and compose yourself
  • Take a few deep breaths
  • Feeling anxious is normal
  • Read question paper calmly and plan your time
  • If you don't know answer, leave it and try later
  • Don't hurry it is not a race
  • Focus on your content, not your friend's extra answer sheets

After exams:

  • Avoid getting into discussion about the question paper
  • Do not worry about what would you have written
  • Give yourself a break and relax
  • Resume studies when you feel comfortable