G Ram Books, publisher of viral Class 9 chapter on dating, has a series on mental health

The private Delhi publisher set up a psychology department, launched mental health books in response to cases of depression during the pandemic.

G Ram Books were the publication behind the viral CBSE Class 9 textbooks on dating (Representational Image: University of Hyderabad)G Ram Books were the publication behind the viral CBSE Class 9 textbooks on dating (Representational Image: University of Hyderabad)

Atul Krishna | February 17, 2024 | 11:36 AM IST

NEW DELHI: In the first week of February, a chapter from a Class 9 textbook went viral on social media for its content. It talked about dating, relationships, and the dangers lurking in cyberspace such as catfishing and cyberbullying.

Social media posts wrongly attributed the textbooks to the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), which is an examination board and does not print textbooks. They were actually from a textbook on adolescent mental health titled, A Better You: A Guide to Self Awareness and Empowerment, by G Ram Books, a private publishing company based in Delhi.

The chapter on dating and relationships elicited mixed responses online. Some praised it for its forthright treatment of real-life issues; others took issue with the same content saying CBSE is “including immoralistic lessons…instead of introducing healthy, valuable,moral chapters”, finally forcing CBSE to deny their involvement.

For Tency Mangal, executive director of G Ram Books, these are relevant issues that students face routinely and should be equipped to handle, with the right approach. Mangal said that their textbooks foreground mental health, an issue which remains largely unaddressed in many textbooks.

“This is a book that we made so that a student can be strong mentally. Our dating chapter that went viral was just one aspect of the book. There are chapters on bullying, cyber bullying, social pressure, and how to cope with emotions. Students face a lot of issues. This could be an unhealthy family environment, parental conflict, issues at school. We made this book so that the students are better equipped to navigate these difficulties,” said Mangal.

G Ram Books’ new stance

G Ram Books is a family business started by Mangal’s father Sunil Kumar in 1999. It publishes and distributes the books to schools affiliated to various boards including the CBSE, Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations (CISCE), and state boards.

The company publishes textbooks on various subjects such as English, Hindi, Sanskrit, Marathi, mathematics, science, social studies, environmental studies, computer science, value education, general knowledge, arts and crafts, and most recently, adolescent mental health.

The textbooks on mental health, released in 2020, are their latest addition and were born out of the Covid-19 pandemic. Mangal and her family, much like rest of the country, were confined to home during the pandemic and received frequent news about depression and suicides.

Books for mental health

“We heard very disturbing stories of people in our family, people dying by suicide. Earlier, when we used to hear about suicides it was usually somewhere far. But during Covid, it was people we have met who were dying,” said Mangal.

These incidents were the trigger for Mangal and the G Ram Books to start working on books on mental health at all school levels. At a time when most publishers were struggling to survive, Mangal and her family set out to find experts in clinical and counselling psychology, created a psychology department. and got to work on books on mental health.

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The 10 books – each for different age groups from Class 1 to Class 10 – teaches students about connecting with and regulating their emotions, and cover topics such as depression, anxiety, good-touch bad-touch, peer-pressure, and cyber bullying. Mangal said that the atmosphere in many homes and classrooms is such that they dismiss childrens’ emotions without addressing them. The textbooks aimed to educate both parents and teachers, along with the students.

“For instance, we usually tell children to not show anger. But in our books, which we have scientifically researched using psychology, we tell them that anger is not bad in itself and that focus should be on how you show it and what results come out of it. There are examples in the textbooks using relatable instances that happen in a students’ life,” said Mangal.

Mental health, not moral science

Mangal said that their books addressed a gap in the market that was only partially filled by books on life skills and moral science – neither paid enough attention to mental health.

“The books that are available in the market are life skills and moral science. When we were in school this was the only topic we had. We are bringing in mental health as a subject…We put a lot of care into [the textbooks]. We have used colours that are soothing. We also created a psychology department which normally publishers don’t have,” said Mangal.

They are incorporating these elements into the textbooks for other subjects as well in a bid to normalise discussions on mental health.

“We are working in mental health, not just for business but because we truly believe in it,” said Mangal. “There is a lot of focus on physical health in schools, such as having special physical education periods, but mental health is also equally important.”

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