Anatomy of troubled young minds

Anatomy of troubled young minds

Young people today are soon becoming major targets of mental health issues given the stigma, lack of professionals and awareness. Today, on World Mental Health Day, NT BUZZ highlights the theme, ‘Young people and mental health in a changing world’

Danuska Da Gama I NT BUZZ

Today’s youth are faced with the challenges of adapting to a changing world. Socio-cultural changes, rapid urbanisation as well as the advancement of technology and virtual means of communication play their role in influencing young people. The lack of family time worsens their well being and confidence.

This along with the biological aspect –hormonal changes and still developing ‘reasoning’ brain gives rise to emotional and impulsive responses. They then try to deal with the emotions on their own, often resorting to vices.

The need for more awareness

What worries director of COOJ Peter Castelino, is that many youngsters are still unaware that they are going through psychological problems and need help even though a lot of awareness work is being carried out.

In fact according to Castelino, the scenario in Goa is such that one in every eight children and adolescents has some form of mental health problems. “Suicide is the second leading cause of death in people aged between 15-29 years in India. We are looking at huge numbers that are in need of psychological help,” he says.

Unlike earlier though, students now speak about issues they face, explains assistant professor, Psychology, Ridhima Shirodkar. She believes that organisations and institutions are promoting this awareness through various initiatives and having a counsellor in every educational institute is itself a step forward towards making youth aware that psychological issues are as common as physical issues and there is no shame attached to these. “Students thus are in a safer zone and feel comfortable sharing about matters that disturb them,” she says.

However, many a times the problem lies in the family’s acceptance that there is a problem. “When I told my family that I was going through depression, my father told me that no one in the family had a mental illness history and pushed the topic away,” says a girl who decided to approach a psychiatrist on her own after that.

Shirodkar believes that there may be a discrepancy between families residing in urban and rural areas when it comes to mental health issues. She says: “In rural areas, many students are first generation learners and thus families may not be aware about issues that cause psychological harm to students. On the other hand, urban families are better versed with such concepts and are more open where mental health issues surface.”

Long term educational effort

Several activities and initiatives are being organised today to mark World Mental Health Day. But, with the ever increasing problems that lead to mental health issues there needs to be combined effort to prolong initiatives that raise awareness and educate masses.

Past president of Psychiatric Society of Goa, Rajesh Dhume states that there is a need for mental health to be integrated into general health care. “Mental wellness is a part of daily living much more than physical health. Hence talking about mental health should be encouraged through educational and academic activities.”

“Many educational institutions have started focusing on the mental health of their students. They have appointed student counsellors and periodically have awareness talks,” says Castelino, pointing out that this isn’t enough though, because it is apparent that institutions are still not reaching out to all their students.

“Institutions need to formulate a ‘School Mental Health Policy’ which would include both preventive as well as therapeutic arms including guidelines for referral. There needs to be a curriculum which integrates life skill training as well as understanding mental health in the syllabus,” he suggests.

Dhume however believes that not much is being done. He says, “There is so much of pressure on the institution to complete academics that mental health may not feature in the agenda. This is the reason why WHO felt the need to focus on young people and mental health.”

Shirodkar believes that schools and colleges must start cells where students can find comfort and seek social support from peers as it helps them feel that others too face similar issues.

You have role to play

The experts state that signs of ill mental health can be spotted if people pay close attention to what the youth say.

Shirodkar says: “Often youth are not taken seriously when they do report being stressed, as the word may be used very lightly. Further we tend to downplay another’s problem without realising that it may be a serious concern.” It is important, she says, to lend a ear when any youth does report being stressed.

Shirodkar also provides another dimension to the rising mental health issues among youth. She says: “Goa has many national and international students doing courses here. These students may face adjustment issues as there may be a cultural gap. Drugs and alcohol since it is easily available can also lure youth to seek comfort.”

Dhume explains that serious mental illnesses which have long term repercussions begin in the teens. “Relationship, educational and jobs are three areas wherein most of the maladjustment occurs. One should therefore always be in a listening mode for those subtle voices of distress so that early intervention could prevent suicides,” he stresses. “Young people have various issues. They are on their private journey towards adulthood, which encompasses both physical and psychological growth. Often this growth is hindered by the issues and is also a constant fight between being a teenager and being an adult; it is a tough time,” he says.

Making matters worse, is the glaring discriminatory reservation policy in education, jobs, etc. Youth therefore are swimming in a cauldron of nasty struggles and to get out unbeaten, by itself is a challenge. “If they can achieve their dreams even partially given the circumstances is commendable,” says Dhume.