Every year on October 10th, the world commemorates World Mental Health Day to raise awareness of mental health concerns, the lack of enough infrastructure to assist mental health patients, and the societal stigma that individuals with mental disorders experience.
As the covid pandemic heads into it’s third year, the impact on children and young people continues to weigh heavily. The disruption to routines, education, recreations as well as concerns for family’s income and health is leaving many people feeling afraid, angry and concerned about their future. In India, children with mental health disorders are mostly undiagnosed and hesitant for seeking mental help or treatment. According to the Indian Journal of psychiatry in 2019, even before this pandemic, at least 50 million children in India were affected with mental health issues. 80 to 90 per cent of those did not seek support. Meanwhile, wide gaps persist between mental health needs and mental health funding. India has spent only 0.05 per cent of its health budget annually on mental health, according to the Indian journal of psychiatry. To talk more on this subject, Meradoc in collaboration with Medically Speaking and NewsX organized a webinar and invited a very special and accomplished panel of experts that included Dr Sanjay Chugh, Senior Consultant in Psychiatry and Dr Vijay Dutta, Principal of Modern School, Barakhamba Road, New Delhi.
Throughout the Covid pandemic everyone was requested to stay at home with their families and it was supposed to be at peace, but instead humanity went into pieces with a huge upsurge in mental health issues, especially among the young ones.
Speaking on the significance of mental health conditions among the adolescents, Dr Chugh stated, “Human mind has resilience towards every kind of adversity. An adolescent’s resilience is stronger than a child and an adult’s resilience is stronger than that of an adolescent. This is why we see so many problems among adolescents and children.”
“For an illness to be cures, it is important to be identified correctly before prescribing, let alone administering a medicine. We need to build awareness and after that, identification is important. We test kids in two ways: TET and STET. TET is a thematic perception test wherein children are asked to write stories which end up narrating the problem they are undergoing. Similarly STET is the situation reaction test wherein they react in a particular manner which is not supposed to be the normal reaction of a student. This way we identify the problem with the students,” Dr Vijay Dutta said.
He said, “Out of every 5 adolescents will have mental issues but they hesitate reaching out to professional help due to the fear of Covid. Apart from this what stops us from detecting the degree of this issue is the restrictions parents put on their kids keeping them indoors.”
He added, “A comprehensive mental health program had been chopped out by the school wherein it was mandatory for the teachers to counsel students and he/she should be able to identify and start with the intervention. In severe cases, it is brought to the notice of the principal that the child is going through this severe trauma and then we deal with it in a different way. Different children show different degrees of resilience. Some come out of it quite easily while others have difficulty with it and it reflects in their academic performance. We must make an attempt to find the root cause of this.”
Talking about the stress in adolescents and the pressure one goes through, Dr Chugh said, “Various things like financial pressure (which may/ may not apply to a child), lack of a balanced diet, health concerns (specific to Covid), family issues, relationship issues and interpersonal issues that contribute to stress among youngsters. Some factors may help you relieve this stress, like engaging with things that you enjoy, practicing mindfulness (a state of focused awareness), planning your day out, time management, having a healthy schedule and finally talking to your family and friends about the mental issues.”
“People do not usually have the time and the patience to listen to their children and are constantly in a hurry to giving solutions. Maybe just listening to them is the only healthy solution they need at that time. I always tell parents to make out quantity time for their kids,” he added.
He said, “Adolescents tend to switch to unhelpful coping mechanisms due to overwhelming situations created by stress or peer pressure. These just adds water to the stress bucket and you cannot handle it until you find a healthy way to cope with it.”
Dr Chugh said, “any behavioural change in the normal functioning of the child and stays for a longer length of time is a warning sign. It is not only an indicator, it is a diagnoses of a mental problem. If your child was a happy kid before and suddenly becomes irritable, angry, short tempered, starts visibly looking anxious, chewing nails, slapping feet, cannot sleep or eat properly, becomes asocial, talks negatively about self, feels inferior, hopeless or worthless, it is a stage where you as a parent cannot handle the situation and a professional help must be sought.”