WE CAN HELP CHILDREN TO KEEP STRESS AT BAY
STRESS has been called the Health Epidemic of the 21st Century, which if not prevented or coped adaptively, can lead many to Depression and other maladaptive behaviours , irrespective of caste,sex,age or creed. More than 300 million people suffer from Depression worldwide today , that is 5% of the World population. ‘Lack of support for people with mental disorders, coupled with a fear of stigma, prevent many from accessing the treatment they need to live healthy, productive lives’, says the WHO. It has been found that about 86% of college students are exhausted mentally today, 30% of students are depressed and unable to function optimally and about 6.6% have contemplated committing suicide.
Why are the children and youth so stressed today? Why are they so depressed, that every day you get to read in the newspapers, of a suicide committed somewhere? It has been reported that every 4 minutes there is a suicide somewhere in the world! We need to analyse this problem thoroughly and try to find solutions to it.
Youth are the backbone of the society of every country. Stressed youth are psychologically disturbed and confused. The reasons for this malady are manifold. There is a plethora of information being bombarded upon them from all directions today — the internet, their peers, teachers, media, parents, films, school, all of whom have a different perspective and story to tell. Children find it difficult to differentiate the reel from the real and try to ape the reel, with no one to tell them that it’s all fake and far from reality. The expectations the youth have to face, from their parents, friends, teachers and most importantly their own expectations play a significantly daunting role in stressing them. These expectations may be academic, performance, career, social and many more. Sometimes there are cultural, communication and language barriers which stress them. It may also be something as simple as the the food which is served to them in hostels, which they find unpalatable. Adjustment problems and loneliness are GIANT STRESSORS which can have a devastating effect on them. Comparisons, Competitions , Criticism have a significant role to play in stressing the youth.
All or some of these problems, have a hazardous effect on the psychology of the child, which, if not coped adaptively by them, can lead them to depression ,drug abuse or other risky maladaptive behaviours. I have been to many schools and colleges, in and around DehraDun India,to psycho-educate the students ,about Stress Prevention and Healthy Coping, and I found that many students studying there were from far flung States and remote areas. They were very lonely, and had communication and food problems. They found it difficult to cope with the daily pressures they had to face and many drifted to ‘short term relief measures’ like Drugabuse and Addictions. The lucky ones however, had supportive and intelligent parents,who communicated frequently with them and helped them find solutions to their problems. These children made friends, coped well and were happy.
When parents and teachers have taught their children Resilience and the importance of being in high self-esteem, such children learn healthy coping skills and manage to keep stress at bay. However those who have NOT learnt Resilience or self-esteem from their parents or teachers from their childhood, are often emotionally weak . They are unable to find rational solutions to their problems and get easily stressed, depressed, and may take to mal-adaptive coping like drugs and alcohol abuse or other risky behaviours. Chronic persistent Depression may lead them to suicide! A supportive family background does wonders for the child’s psychology and these children develop a high EQ.
Sadly this is not the scenario today. When distressed or confused children turn to their parents for emotional support and guidance, they often face disappointment and get no help from them. Now this maybe because of a number of reasons. Either the parents are stressed themselves, or lack knowledge of how to EFFECTIVELY communicate or empower their children or are too busy to bother. Such children then instinctively turn to their peers, films, pornography, or drugs for information and solace and end up getting addicted ,depressed or misinformed. I need to add,at this point, that I find the parents today, to be a very confused and stressed lot too, as far as their children are concerned. They feel guilty and depressed .They are in need of counselling’s too.
The need of the hour is AWARENESS of Good, Effective, Happy Parenting Skills by the Parents, support by teachers with empathy and compassion, for the youth, so that they can effectively communicate and bond with the children, as well as empower them with Resilience, self-esteem, healthy coping skills and confidence. Only then can children learn to be happy and stress-free.
There should be awareness and empowerment workshops for the children , in schools and colleges, where they are taught Resilience, assertiveness, self-esteem and Problem Solving Skills. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy works wonders in such cases. It is ALSO very important to remember that children invariably model the behaviour of their parents and teachers. So my advice to both parents and teachers, is to BE, DO AND BEHAVE in the manner they want their children to be,do and behave.
Let us all get together and save our most precious human resource — our children and youth — from stress depression and suicide. PARIFOUNDATION is working hard to empower youth by spreading awareness about Prevention of Stress and its consequences.It is possible and we can all do it!
Dr.Sona Kaushal Gupta
Founder Director PARIFOUNDATION