Mental wellness: Bringing calm to a VUCA world

Dr. Vincent Chian

Dr. Vincent Chian, Principal of Fairview International School in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, delivered a compelling presentation at the 27th Elets World Education Summit in Malaysia addressing a critical concern in education—the significance of mental wellness. In his engaging talk, Dr. Chian emphasized the urgent need to prioritize mental well-being among students, acknowledging that this is a matter of global relevance rather than something confined to specific regions.

He began by shedding light on the concerning trends in youth mental health, citing statistics that illustrate a growing crisis. Dr. Chian highlighted how between 2020 and 2022, the rate of youth mental health challenges increased from 21.5% to 25%, underscoring the gravity of the issue. Moreover, he pointed out that adults are not immune, with their mental health challenges increasing from 13% to 17.7% during the same period. The trend is not limited to just these years; between 2009 and 2015, youth mental health challenges in the US surged by over 60%.

Dr. Chian emphasized that these statistics represent a global pattern, and this issue is not restricted to certain parts of the world. It is a problem that is knocking at the doorsteps of educational institutions worldwide, including those in Malaysia and other nations.

As someone who transitioned from the field of psychiatry to education, Dr. Chian brought a unique perspective to the discussion. He shared his experiences from the world of mental health, explaining how in psychiatry, the focus was often on treating individuals after they had already reached a state of distress. Drawing a vivid analogy, he compared this reactive approach to repairing a shattered vase—although it could be mended, it would never be the same. This analogy drove home the point that preventing emotional distress is far more effective than attempting to repair it after the fact.

With this in mind, Dr. Chian asserted that it is high time for a paradigm shift in education. He called for a proactive stance that focuses on cultivating mental wellness from the outset, rather than waiting for students to experience distress. This proactive approach, he argued, aligns with the way we treat our cars—with regular maintenance and care to prevent breakdowns.

Dr. Chian unveiled a proactive program that his school has implemented, centered on teaching students vital life skills related to goal-setting, self-awareness, emotional intelligence, and more. He underscored how students who participated in this program reported significant improvements in their academic performance, despite not making any changes to their academic curriculum. This outcome showcased the powerful connection between emotional well-being and academic success.

Furthermore, he advocated for a collaborative approach among educators. Dr. Chian expressed his concern about the lack of collaboration in education compared to other fields, where professionals regularly meet and share best practices. He urged educators to overcome the fear of competition and focus on what genuinely matters—the well-being of the students. He believed that educators should unite to create an environment that fosters the overall growth and development of students, both academically and emotionally.

Dr. Vincent Chian’s presentation served as a wake-up call for educators and institutions worldwide. It underscored the critical importance of addressing mental wellness in education, advocating for proactive measures, collaboration among educators, and a holistic approach to nurturing students’ well-being. His compelling insights and passion for this cause resonated deeply with the audience, leaving them inspired to take action and prioritize the mental wellness of students in their respective institutions.

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