Ways to help kids de-stress

Photo for representation. Stock photo.

Student suicide has evolved as an epidemic in our society with data revealing appalling facts that should act as an alarm for students, parents and institutions.
According to the National Crime Records Bureau report, in 2014, there were 8,032 student suicides, out of which 2,403 were due to failure in examinations or other career-related issues. In 2018, it was reported that as many as 9,474 students committed suicide in 2016 — almost 26 every day. India has seen around 75,000 student suicides between 2007 and 2016.
One of the biggest reasons for this grave statistical estimate is the pressure from parents to perform well in exams, over-expectation and efforts to outperform other fellow students, which affect students’ mental health. This, in turn, compels students to take drastic steps when they fail to achieve what they had hoped to.

Pressure to outshine

For the country’s youth, the pressure to outshine other students is tremendous. With only 23 Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT) and vastly over-subscribed medical colleges, competition in these fields is more intense than ever. 

If we observe, in the last few years, the rate of suicide among high school students has been higher among those who were trying to make it to prestigious educational institutions such as IITs and IIMs or those who weren’t scoring well in academics or were unable to secure good career options owing to poor grades. 

The underlying cause for rising youth suicides in the country are:

While educational institutions lay emphasis on students’ physical well-being and prepare them for social challenges, sadly, a majority of them are yet to be fully equipped to comprehend the mental health issues of students.

Most student suicides are caused by underlying psychiatric factors such as stress, depression and anxiety due to difficulty in coping with academics, unrealistic expectations, pressure from parents and lack of support from peers. It is important to identify the illness at an early stage and refer a mental health professional to curb youth suicides.

How can we help

Identification of interest area: Parents and teachers must start understanding the calibre and passions of their children. Exerting pressure to succeed and blaming them for failures will only add on to their miseries, make them suffer in silence and choke themselves to depression.

Better counselling programmes: Academic institutions must have equipped psychological counselling programmes to help students deal with their problems in confidentiality. The counselling programmes must be tailored to cater to the needs of each child. A student must be referred to a mental healthcare professional for timely intervention, whenever necessary.

Treatment and recovery are viable through counselling, medication and therapy. A few institutes, realising the need to develop emotional quotient, are introducing activities to help students cope with the pressure of performing well. All institutes need to realise the need and come forward to introduce classes that will help students strike-off negativity, stress, etc at the institutions as well as into their daily lives.

Mindfulness training: As per a study published in the journal Behavioural Neuroscience, mindfulness training can alter brain activity in students thereby enhancing the academic performance and mental health of the students.

The research also identified that students who received mindfulness training have lowered their stress level after the training. Thus, if academic institutions implement mindfulness training as part of their curriculum, we can expect students to perform better at their academics. This can also minimise the rate of students’ suicide in our society.

Students also must realise that suicide is not a solution. It only devastates themselves and their families. They can always seek refuge with counsellors, psychologists and even special friends who are more than willing to help them cope with depression.

With thousands of teens committing suicide every year; the issue has become crucial to be neglected. Suicide isn’t a result of just impulsive behaviour but also a result of emotional health issues like depression, anxiety etc. It has been observed that youths with traumatic life events or having poor levels of communication with their parents are more likely to commit suicide.

To ensure the holistic — physical, emotional and mental — well-being of children, society must sincerely commit to bridge the gap in the education sector vis-à-vis mental well-being.

We need a significant financial commitment to ensure the actual implementation of progressive ideas and values in national mental health policy, and the government must commit to an evidence-based approach to mental healthcare. 

(The writer is with Shiksha.com)  

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