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Solo's Sadventures: Episode 2

September 20, 2017

 

Sadventure by Solo
Art by Solo for The Health Collective 


Solo is a writer and cartoonist from Bangalore. She likes reading, playing video games and binge-watching Netflix. Her life would have been rather unremarkable had it not been for her BPD-fuelled imagination... Read more of her Sadventures here

 

Ask the Experts: Fighting Against Child Abuse

September 19, 2017
 

Child Sexual Abuse is a subject many parents find difficult to talk about, let alone educate their children about. While there is no question that experts feel you must have the conversation with your child sooner than later, do read on for insight from the Aarambh India Initiative, which works in the field of child protection. Do visit their site for more information and free resources on tackling child abuse. Sidharth Pillai, co-director of the Aarambh India Initiative speaks to The Health Collective.


1) How prevalent is the problem in India? Some parents might think they're protected/ their children are safe etc. What do you say to them?

The statistics on sex offences against children in India are grim. A staggering 53% of children reported suffering sexual assault, according to a 2007 report on Child Abuse by the Department of Women and Child Welfare (i.e. one in every two Indian children).
In 2016 alone, according to the National Crime Records Bureau, 8,800 cases of rape against children were reported – that's one case every 60 minutes every day of the year. 
Despite these already high numbers, it is accepted by experts that, for various reasons, there are many more cases of sexual abuse and exploitation of children which go unreported.

FIND HELP: CHILD SEX ABUSE HELPLINES 

2) You're very particular about using the phrase child sexual abuse - why do you choose not to use the term 'child pornography'?

We prefer to use the term 'child sexual abuse imagery' instead of child pornography to refer to content which features sexually explicit images/videos of children. The word 'Pornography' has several connotations. 'Pornography' as a term is largely considered to be legally acceptable. It is associated with adult pornography in which it is assumed that:

  • The act is being performed and recorded among consensual adults
  • The viewer is a mere consumer and not complicit in the act in any way

However, when it comes to sexually explicit content that features children, it is important to remember that:

  • The act that is being performed and captured, is primarily an act of child sexual abuse. It is a document that is capturing, not pornography but rather, a heinous criminal act
  • The child has probably been groomed (forced/tricked/bribed) into the act
  • By viewing it and not reporting it, you are creating demand for criminal content (in the production of which more and more children will be harmed) 
  • By not reporting it you are also delaying the healing process for the victim, the child whose video continues to be available online. Each time the video is watched it is a crime that goes against the rights and dignity of the child.

ALSO READ: LOST VOICES: TRAUMA AND ABUSE

3) Why should parents have 'the talk' with children -- and how early?

If you won’t do it, somebody else will. And then you have little control over the kind of information your child is receiving. It may be inaccurate, incomplete or even misogynistic. Having ‘the talk’ fosters the bond of trust that already exists between you and your child. Unlike other adults like teachers and counsellors, as a parent, you are most likely to be with your child as they enter different phases of their life.

Thus you can ensure that ‘the talk’ is an age-appropriate and continuous process. Also, experts are of the opinion that talking about the basics of sex and sexuality with your child at a young age can lay the foundation for dealing with more complex issues later in life. Even as we may try to deny it, the fact remains that we live in world where sex is everywhere. It is on the internet and in movies, songs, TV shows, newspapers, & magazines. A growing child is bound to be curious. It is time to acknowledge this and act accordingly.

Information is the first step towards safety. By keeping the child informed, you are enabling them to be self-aware and confident. Thereby, empowering your child to protect themselves from harm including abuse, under-age pregnancy, STDs among other risks.

How early? The basics of personal safety and sex-sexuality education can begin from early childhood. It is important to ensure that the talk is age-appropriate. For example, for a pre-school child the ‘talk’ may consist of just teaching them the proper name for their body parts including genitals. Talking to them about the details of intercourse would be unnecessary and inappropriate. There is no one right age to start ‘the Talk’. Each child is unique and as parents you are best placed to judge and know a good time to have the conversation. You can base your judgement on the questions your child asks you.

4) Aarambh India Initiative and the Internet Watch Foundation have set up a reporting portal you can access to report (even anonymously) explicit images or video of children, which will then be removed. Are there any anecdotal cases you can share?

An anonymous report was made through the Indian Portal (last December). It was for content hosted on a cyber-locker (which) showed baby girls and baby boys from a range of ethnicities. Worst of all, the most severe abuse was happening to them; rape and sexual torture. Although the report was made by someone in India, the webpage was actually hosted in Russia and it contained over 200 videos. The time taken between the report being sent from India, to the time we notified the Russian Hotline was 1 hour and 7 minutes.  The Russian hotline acted swiftly and the content was removed in less than 24 hours.

Views expressed are personal. Material on The Health Collective cannot substitute for expert advice from a trained professional.

 

Comics and Art for Mental Health: Depression

September 16, 2017

Art by Pig Studio for The Health Collective

ALSO SEE: ANXIETY by Pig Studio

Workplace Stress and the Need for Me Time

September 9, 2017

By Sukanya Sharma

Stress is everywhere you look these days -– a fairly generic term, it’s something most people can relate to, given the fatigue, exhaustion, and extreme levels of multi-tasking while trying to maintain some sort of balance.

“The corporate world thrives on the theory of survival of the fittest - physically, mentally and emotionally. But this balance becomes overwhelming after some time”, Navneet Sharma, senior vice president for a leading lighting company, tells The Health Collective.

Surya Namaskar
By Camino (269703) [GFDL CC-BY-SA-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons]


Recent noted facts in India: 

- In 2016, Optum - a health guidance company - surveyed 2 lakh employees working in 30 large firms across in India and found out that almost half (46%) were dealing with some form of stress 

According to NewsBytes, 2,500 employees across 150 organisations reached out to 1to1help.net with suicidal tendencies*, with 70% of this outreach observed in the past 5 years

(*Please reach out for professional help if you or anyone you know demonstrated suicidal tendencies. You will find some contact numbers and helplines on our Contact Page)

ALSO READ: Media Watch: Portrayal of Mental Illness and Suicide

Another study by Chestnut Global Partners India also revealed productivity loss. As The Financial Express reports“A recent study ‘Workplace Stress: Impact and Outcomes: An India Study 2016’ showed that the total organisational productivity loss per year (because of absenteeism due to stress) adds up to approximately R49.6 crore in the the IT/ITeS sector (for an organisation with an average employee base of 10,000). That figure was R105.48 crore for the finance/banking sector...”

ALSO READ: Ask the Experts: How Does Therapy Work

How do we analyse the generational data? It looks like Indian millennials spend an average of 52 hours at work per week, compared to their peers in Japan, which spends on average 46 hours a week, according to a Manpower Group study. And we know the drill – we’re usually incessantly checking or sending or replying to emails round the clock, no matter how late the hour, it’s something bosses here in India tend to expect at the bare minimum. It takes a toll!

“Coming from a sales and marketing background, even though I have a team of experts, I still have to personally maintain a healthy relationship with our dealers and distributors all over India. If you ask my work timings, I don’t have any! Communication is so open these days that anyone can contact me at any time, which means even on a Sunday,” says Sharma.


ALSO READ: What's Work-Life Balance Got to Do With Stress?

Meera Alva, a psychotherapist based in Bangalore points out how our work has become our identity, which can be challenging. Increasingly, our professional identity takes over the personal.

Dr Bhavana Gautam concurs. She tells The Health Collective that this need to be “perfect”, “better than anyone else” is so pre-occupying that we don’t realise its unhealthy nature until it’s too late.

As dialogue on mental health opens up, some companies have chosen to outsource health and wellness programs to various trained agencies. The World Health Organisation describes workplace health programs as some of the most significant programs that keep employees free from physical and mental work stress. An efficient workplace health program not only benefits the employee but the organisation too.

In India, some companies are working in yoga to help keep employees fit and fine. ‘Our office trips always have “yoga time” included in our itinerary. Regardless of where we are going, be it in India or abroad, our chairman instructs us (to) kick off the day with yoga and meditation,’ says Sharma.

Dr. Gautam tells The Health Collective that it is critical for any employer to invest time and energy to ensure employees are not just physically, but mentally fit as well, not least because of the workloads they’re handling. “Emotional Quotient is just as important as Intelligence Quotient,” she reminds us

 

Understanding Therapy and Challenges En Route

September 5, 2017


Kishore Mohan for The Health Collective
Kishore Mohan for The Health Collective

 

Inspired by: THE GREAT MELTDOWN AND THE HEALING THAT CAME NEXT

We Need to Talk: The Anna Chandy Interview

September 3, 2017

Amrita Tripathi interviews Anna Chandy, author of Battles in the Mind, and Chairperson of Deepika Padukone's The Live Love Laugh Foundation to find out more about her own journey to healing, and what the Foundation has been up to in India, trying to move the needle on Mental Health, and Mental Health conversations.

THE HEALTH COLLECTIVE INTERVIEW

1) Congratulations on your book Battles in the Mind. You've been very open about sharing your own personal struggles and journey to healing. Do tell us a little bit about this experience?  

The entire project took around two and half years. I worked with the support of two writers to whom I would narrate the incidents /experiences along with my interpretations of it from my current professional role as a therapist. I was able to conceptualise the impact of the experiences and its outcome. For example my behaviour  to be a “pleaser“ and inability to say “no”  in the early years as a childhood, was a strategy to be “included" and not feel “abandoned “.

When revisited, some experiences made me sad even after all these years. But for most of them, I was able to view with a lens of objectivity since I have had so many years of therapy.

ALSO READ: An Excerpt from Battles in the Mind

 

2) You write very movingly about living through abuse -- both CSA and emotional abuse at the hands of a parent. What is your message to a younger self? And what is your message to someone else who might be going through something similar but not have received help yet?

Let me clarify this....emotional abuse was from a parent and the CSA was from well-known family friends. Till today every morning and every night I assure my inner child that I was not the cause and there is no need for “guilt” or “shame”. I think this is the most important and valuable reassurance that is required for survivors of any form of abuse -physical, sexual, emotional or verbal.

ALSO READ: Where to get Help in India

3) How important is it to have these conversations, open conversations about mental health, in India?

I think and believe that it is essential to have open dialogue and discussion in India on mental health. Mental health is associated with stigma, shame, humiliation and secrecy and that is not healthy as it leads to an India that excludes diversity and disability.
 

Anna Chandy The Live Love Laugh Foundation

4) Deepika Padukone has really been a game-changer in the mental health conversations we're seeing in India -- at least in urban India. Can you tell us a bit about the impact her frank disclosure on her struggle with depression has had?

Yes, she has been a game-changer to share her vulnerabilities on prime time national television. I admire and respect her for sharing her vulnerability for the greater long term purpose.

According to a research paper, “Given that the celebrity disclosures influence people’s attitudes and behaviours, it could be that knowing about these issues further prompt individuals to get more involved with the celebrity, and by extension the cause that they are espousing. In that manner, more individuals can eventually become advocates for the issue which becomes especially relevant in the stigmatised context of mental health issues in India. Celebrity disclosures may work in a manner similar to health messages delivered via narrative based and entertainment-education interventions and may be considered nonthreatening as compared to explicit health messages that advocate attitude and behaviour change that may evoke psychological reactance as the message recipients may sense a perceived threat to their freedom.” 

ALSO READ: Ask the Experts: How Does Therapy Work

5) Do share any anecdotes or lessons learned through the work The Live Love Laugh Foundation is doing? 

Since our launch, TLLLF has undertaken three flagship initiatives:

1) An awareness programme (“You Are Not Alone”) on depression for adolescents and teachers, that has been conducted in five states covering more than 36,000 students across 280 schools;

2) A programme to sensitize doctors on mental health called “Together Against Depression,” that has covered more than 2,000 doctors; and

3) The launch of Dobara Poocho, India’s first nationwide public awareness campaign on mental health.

The sessions have been very well received and we are glad that the programme has been delivered out across various locations. The programmes have also been tailored wherever possible. For e.g., when there is a prevailing social issue that highlighted, our program is tailored to educate and sensitise the locals to the effect t of the social issue and its impact on the mind.

One of our partners that delivers the program in schools in rural areas stated that alcoholism was a common feature amongst families in the community and this is something they addressed as part of the program.

During interactions with students in schools based in urban areas, frequently asked questions include clarification on symptoms of depression, mostly physical symptoms like headaches, fatigue etc; queries related to interpersonal relationships which is one of the major stressors for the adolescent age group and queries related to dependence on alcohol and nicotine.

Most sessions across schools have an average of 5 to 10 students, reaching out to the mental health professional post the completion of the session, seeking help for various emotional issues

Also Read: Your Stories: The Rise and Fall, Stages of BPD

6) There's a larger theme this year for the WHO on stress in the workplace -- Could you share your professional insight on this, in terms of the Indian context?   

In my view, normal day-to-day stress is a component of living. When this day to day stress becomes “distress” then I think the individual needs support .Yes I do see many young individuals specially, unable to cope because of “distress” that was not addressed in the early years. They often start visiting doctors with psychosomatic ailments and are then directed to me when they need to explore themselves, psychologically. Initially, there is resistance to share but after a few sessions they open up and we are able to identify their triggers and that enable them to manage their life in a more holistic way. 

Having said that the number of individuals who come to me sharing about their childhood trauma is frightening and yet indicates how common sexual and emotional abuse is.
 

7) And finally, in India we see multiple hurdles to people getting help for mental health issues -- lack of awareness, superstitious beliefs or denial, stigma, but also critically, lack of trained professionals. What are some of your thoughts on these issues?

I think some of these are part of the DNA of our culture. If we need to change the direction of our conversation in breaking and reducing stigma, in my view it is important that we don’t negate cultural beliefs but engage with society to question and be curious if some of these beliefs need to be reviewed according to the context. Engagement and discussion is more productive that trying to be dogmatic.

With regard to trained professionals I think it is more important to have guidelines on ethical practice.

Disclaimer: Material on The Health Collective cannot substitute for expert advice from a trained mental health professional.

Battles in the Mind: An Excerpt

September 3, 2017

We feature a moving excerpt from Battles in the Mind, a book written by Anna Chandy, chairperson of Deepika Padukone's Live Love Laugh Foundation (and Padukone's therapist). This excerpt is published with kind permission of Penguin Random House India.

 

Battles in the Mind
by Anna Chandy
 

Among the many souvenirs of my painful childhood that I have still kept is the receipt from the school, perhaps to remind me of those confusing months in a strange place. Perhaps to chronicle yet another incident in my disturbed childhood that never made sense.

Another time, my parents were in the middle of another huge fight when we received news that a family friend had suffered a heart attack. He lived in Coonoor, a day’s drive from Bangalore. That didn’t stop my mother from immediately bundling us up and leaving for his residence to help.

Also Read: Healing Room: The Reena Nath Interview

Incidents like these developed in me a natural restlessness. I grew up with a recurring anthem: ‘Today, I am here. Tomorrow, I don’t know where I will be.’ I was apprehensive all the time and took to anticipating people’s actions, almost to the point of paranoia. I was always waiting for emergency to strike.

Child sacrifice

Rewinding further back into my childhood, I found I’d shut away a series of incidents so vicious and hurtful that even the thought of them reduced me to helplessness.

Battles in the Mind by Anna Chandy


My mother was particularly close to an aunt with whom she enjoyed going for movies. As the aunt’s children were already in their teens—a boy and a girl—it made perfect sense to leave the six-year-old me with them for a few hours while they went ahead with their outing.

At times, she’d leave me there overnight so that she needn’t worry about getting home early. As I played on my own, knowing my mother would be back, I wasn’t afraid. Amma trusted these people, so why shouldn’t I? So when the aunt’s husband began to pay a little more attention to me, I responded with delight. When he drew me on to his lap, I welcomed it. When I’d find him sitting on the edge of my bed in the early hours of the morning, I allowed it. And then, when he began to put his hand on me, began to molest me, taking advantage of my pliable nature, I did not protest. Why would I, when I was getting the attention and affection I craved for at home? In my six-year-old mind, I didn’t know the difference.

Also Read: Lost Voices: The Bigger Picture on Child Abuse in India

Even as he continued his use of my little body every week, his son, an eighteen-year-old, unbeknownst to his father, began his own molestation of me. I had always noticed him lurking, watching me play, and I assumed he did so because he liked me. Over the years, as I grew, he began what he called ‘playing together’. Initially, I looked forward to spending time with him. I believed him when he told me he was my boyfriend. We were in love and I allowed myself the usual girlhood dreams of fairy-tale romance, even though I was only eight, and he was twenty. Such was the dysfunction of my mother’s aunt’s family that her twenty two-year-old daughter too began to molest me.

Also on the Health Collective: Helplines and Contacts

It was only when I turned ten, and both son and daughter were married and living in their own homes, that the abuse stopped, and I, left confused by the whole incident, felt betrayed by the people who I thought loved me. After all, they were the only people in Amma’s entire family who had even acknowledged me. And yet, after using me, they’d left to start families of their own. The boyfriend hadn’t even turned to look back. The fairy tale crashed.

...

This excerpt is published with kind permission of Penguin Random House India.

Up Next on The Health Collective: An Interview With Anna Chandy

 

 

Your Stories:The Rise and Fall... Stages of Borderline Personality Disorder

September 3, 2017

Sadventures by Solo 

BPD Stages by BPD for the Health Collective

BPD Stages by Solo for The Health Collective
(Images Courtesy: Solo for The Health Collective)

 

Solo is a writer and cartoonist from Bangalore. She likes reading, playing video games and binge-watching Netflix. Her life would have been rather unremarkable had it not been for her BPD-fuelled imagination. She also has 4 cats.

You can check out 'Sadventures' -- her comics for The Health Collective -- and leave your comments right here. More on where you can get help and our special series Understanding Therapy.

Faith, Reason and the Mindset of a Follower

August 30, 2017

 

‘Faith is what I die for, dogma is what I kill for’ is the saying. And we saw much of that unfolding in the aftermath of the verdict against Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh. All faith is dogma. And faith is nothing but belief unfounded on facts. Epistemology, a branch of philosophy, studies the nature of knowledge, of justification and of the rationality of belief.
 
Belief differs from knowledge in that, whereas the latter is controlled by the facts, and depends upon the right kind of relationship between mind and world, the former is all and only in the mind, and does not rely on anything in the world. One can, in short, believe anything: that pigs fly, that grass is blue, and that people who do not believe either are wicked.
AC Grayling in The Guardian
 
Reason is the faculty that proportions judgment to evidence after first weighing the evidence. As Grayling writes faith is a negation of reason, even in the face of contrary evidence. So all ‘followers’ -- be it of the Sri Sri Ravi Shankar variety, the Sadhguru type or the Dera Sacha Sauda -- are people who are negating reason or ignoring the need for evidence by virtue of their blind faith.

I would go as far as saying that ‘followers’ are conformists who have inferiority complexes and are guided by powerful emotions like fear and guilt. The inferiority complex is not just a little problem, as Alfred Adler said. It's a neurosis, meaning it's a life-size problem. You become shy and timid, insecure, indecisive, cowardly, submissive, compliant, and so on. You begin to rely on people to carry you along. And what better than an allegiance to a man in power - a Guru!

EXPLOITATION AS A BUSINESS MODEL?

Cults and organisations have a well thought through recruitment, selection and socialisation process. And after initiation, “thought-reform” programs reprogram the way people see the world. Facts become replaced with beliefs.

 
In fact, social psychologist Kurt Lewin’s Change Theory does explain this latter bit, as it consists of unfreezing: the process which involves finding a method of making it possible for people to let go of an old pattern that was counterproductive in some way. This is required to ensure group conformity and overcome resistance. Then there is changing, which involves the process of changing thoughts, behaviours and feelings and refreezing, or establishing the change as the new habit.
 

 

(As an aside: If you ask me to explain how people of science can often be people of faith, I would tell you that as humans, they are as susceptible to living with contrarian beliefs. So on the one hand doctors who know for example that a tumour in a brain is only going to get bigger no matter the surgery, can still suggest to the family to seek spiritual healing as a 'possible' method to 'cure' the tumour. See the dichotomy?!)

 

As Art Markman explains: There are lots of contradictions in people’s strongly held beliefs. Someone might preach self-sufficiency in politics, but coddle their children. An individual might oppose abortion on the grounds that human life is sacred and may still support the death penalty for convicted murders. A person might argue for the freedom of individual expression in the arts but want hateful speech to be regulated.

 

There’s a pragmatic reason for these contradictory beliefs.

Markman further states : A core principle that you hold and don’t want to have violated is called a “protected value,” which you don’t even like to consider violating. Observing other people violate one’s own protected values can cause feelings of anger and even outrage. And when we contemplate violating our own protected values, we feel guilt and shame. The thing is, once you have more than one protected value, those values are very likely to come into conflict at some point. People who oppose abortion and physician-assisted suicide, but who favour the death penalty for murderers and deadly military force for regimes perceived as threats to American lives and values, are experiencing this kind of conflict. They have two deeply held values—the sanctity of life and the prime importance of security—and different circumstances require making a choice between the two.
 
Such choices are rarely explicit, and most people aren’t aware of the inconsistencies in beliefs like this until it’s pointed out to them. To be fair, philosophers and ethicists have spent centuries untangling dilemmas like these, and many would argue (often compellingly) that clashing ideals—political or otherwise—are perfectly defensible, as are contingent approaches toward acting on them. And maybe so. But our brains don’t care about any of that. In other words, if you learn some new fact that turns out to be inconsistent with something else you know, there are no automatic mechanisms in your brain that point out the inconsistency and force you to resolve it. Instead, you simply end up with two different beliefs that are not consistent.
 
THE NEED FOR CRITICAL THINKING
 
As a culture, India does not foster critical thinking. We demand compliance from our youth, conformity and subservience to our elders and frown upon questioning as a way of life. Notice a child who questions his parents, he is deemed a “back-answering” child, who lacks manners and respect and is shut down. Since this becomes his lifestyle – to follow, submit, obey, and accept – how can he develop individualistic and judicious thinking?
 
Add to that the training to fear authority and you have a gullible, naïve, sad inadequate who thinks he’s a nobody, and becomes ‘needy’ of acceptance from people in positions of power – his family, his school, his boss – lacking a mind of his own and becoming open to heavily persuasive techniques and emotional manipulation.
 
A follower is offered friendship, identity, respect and security. Since because of his early learning’s where he was taught that identity comes from belonging, respect from acceptance, people who believe they ‘need’ this become receptive to the message of sects. And in an increasingly complex world where old certainties are crumbling and things are changing fast, a secure group offering personal salvation becomes very attractive.
 
 
All humans are desirous of comfort. In the face of fear and uncertainty many look toward outlets that soothe our anxieties. The illusion of comfort that these leaders provide – complete financial security, constant peace of mind, perfect health – which are virtually unattainable, exploit sentimental cravings
 
Yes, all followers are anxious, insecure people. Parents need to allow their children to disagree with points of view. The hallmark of mental wellness is an ability to think, to reason, to debate. By robbing your child of this ability you inadvertently create a person who goes along.  Conformity and confidence cannot go hand in hand. And confident people don’t follow! Teaching the young to develop autonomous self-sustaining behaviour with the capacity to go it alone holds far more value in the long run and doesn’t allow for dependency. Guru’s and Baba’s love dependent personalities!
 
Allow for responsibility taking. “I was only following orders” is the adult equivalent of “Mummy told me to do it”! Social psychologist Stanley Milgram famously showed in his experiments on obedience that, when we obey authority, we do not see ourselves as responsible for our actions, however cruel. Cult leaders love obedience.
 
To prevent the rise of self-styled gurus, babas and what have you, raise individuals.

As Friedrich Nietzsche said,
“The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.”
 

 

Varkha Chulani is a clinical psychologist and psychotherapist at Lilavati Hospital in Mumbai. She is an associate fellow and supervisor at The Albert Ellis Institute, New York City. 
A regular contributor for The Health Collective -- you can find her piece on the need to build pockets of stillness into our lives here.

Views expressed are Personal. 

I'm Okay, You're Okay

August 29, 2017

 

Art by Kishore Mohan for The Health Collective

Art by: Kishore Mohan 

View older posts »

What It's Like to Live With Anxiety and Depression

Do check out this incredible comic (created by Nick Seluk of The Awkward Yeti). I first saw it on Upworthy and was blown away by it -- like so many others have been. It is reproduced here with the kind permission of The Awkward Yeti.

 

 

This incredible comic was created by Nick Seluk, creator of The Awkward Yeti, based on a story told by Sarah Flanigan, and published on taptastic.com 

It is reproduced here with kind permission from The Awkward Yeti

 

Adolescents, Relationships and Stress

In India, year after year, we are almost inured to stories of students driven to extreme stress by board exams. At times, in the absence of learning coping mechanisms or other ways of releasing these incredibly high levels of stress, a significant number of them choose, tragically to cut short their young lives.


YOUNG SUICIDES

The National Crime Records Bureau report looking at Suicides in India (2004-2014) analyses the 'Percentage Distribution of Suicide Victims by Profession during 2014' to find that 6.1% of suicide victims in 2014 were students. (Another shocking statistic: 15.3% of suicide victims were found to be housewives; find an analysis of the data and concerns about under-reporting here on IndiaSpend)
 


There doesn't seem to be enough attention paid to causes of suicide -- often a web of causes, not just one simple cause.

Nonetheless, many counsellors I had spoken to over the years, including some manning exam helplines for Indian students, mentioned that frequently callers dial in to talk about relationship issues and relationship pressures. It's not just the stress of exams/ Board exam results and the massive pressure we've been socially conditioned to accept as normal, that is.
 

RELATIONSHIP PRESSURE AND ADOLESCENTS

Noted child and adolescent psychiatrist Dr Amit Sen had told me years ago, about how kids are in relationships at ever younger ages -- think tweens or pre-tweens -- and aren't always able to navigate the complications of this; often relationships of course are due to peer pressure.


FROM THE ARCHIVES:
 Dr Amit Sen's own words on the context in India: 

"For the longest time we have found correlations between exam stress and rising depression in adolescents. There is no doubt in my mind that study and exam pressure takes a heavy toll on the minds and well being of teenagers in India. It robs them of other experiences that are vital for adolescent development. Paradoxically, as they begin to slip under the pressure, the system exerts even more pressure.

More recently, we have become increasingly aware of the close relationship between romantic relationship and depression. And indeed, as the article suggests, it is not only to do with break ups but also ongoing/"serious" relationships that often become too complicated for the mid-teens to handle. The cause and effect relationship is,however, not always clear. Its also true that depressed teenagers make themselves more vulnerable and tend to get into messy relationships more easily. A lot depends on the readiness/maturity of the person and clarity about what the relationship means and where the boundaries lie. In India, and perhaps in all places, teenagers often get widely conflicting messages about romantic relationships. This is where life skills and sex education (that is sustained and ongoing) might be preventive/protective of the many ills that plague our children today."

-- This was in response to this article in The Huffington Postwhich, among other things, raised some key points from a startling survey of more than 8,000 American adolescents on issues of depression and romantic relationships.

  

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