While the society at large is fast waking up to the relevance of yoga, meditation and counselling in the context of the complicated and often unrelenting pressures of contemporary life, our higher education system is not adequately taking cognizance of the fact that the psychological upkeep of students is as critical as their intellectual development.
The Delhi University is a case in point. Not a single college under this varsity has any formal platform or body dedicated to mental wellness.
“Some colleges do have groups of students and teachers who try to provide moral support and advice to students in terms of resolving their everyday challenges. For instance, in our college we have the Friends Corner which is basically a place where students can voice their problems and seek help in terms of coping. But the problem is that the students and teachers who have come together for this initiative are not professionally trained. Hence, they cannot appropriately grapple with the multiple problems that plague the students who come for help. Secondly, groups like these operate at a very informal level and not many people within the college know of their existence in the first place,” says Poonam Sethi, associate professor BCom, Hindu College.
Many teachers of Delhi University feel that the need for formal assistance in wellness has increased with the introduction of the semester system. SL Malik , professor of anthropology, University of Delhi, says, “In this system too many classes are packed in too short a time frame and hence it leaves very little scope for students to pursue other self-development activities and hobbies. Needless to say, stress levels are mounting. And academic pressures are just one side of the coin.”
The youngsters of today are dealing with far more complex problems than their previous generations. Dealing with relationship issues, peer and social pressures and of course increased competition in every field of life is challenging and complicated — and in many cases youngsters need help from professionals to effectively deal and learn from these challenges,” adds Malik.
Given the backdrop of this need and its vacuum, what can teachers do to ensure a certain degree of support?
According to Raina Bhattacharya, psychological counsellor and wellness therapist, “Today the biggest problem facing youngsters is that spending so much time on social networking sites and electronic communication, does not allow them to meaningfully connect with people in their immediate physical environment. Also, not many have the ability to self-introspect and find peace and contentment in their given circum-stances and individual abilities.
Consequently, teachers and academicians can make a small but much-needed beginning by undertaking simple initiatives whereby students discover themselves, learn to appreciate their individual worth and connect with others better. This can be as simple as something like conducting a class in the midst of nature or a team-building workshop in which students are encouraged to express what they like and don’t like about themselves and their friends.”
Neil Paul, clinical and de-addiction counsellor, Delhi
Nearly 40% of my patients are college students. The two most common issues that plague youngsters within the age group of 17 to 20 are related to substance abuse and relationships. Relationship issues, more often than not, revolve around parents and authority figures. During late adolescence and early adulthood, people start forming views and opinions and experience a sense of identity for the first time — an identity which they want to zealously guard. While this is a good thing, the flip side is that many youngsters at this stage become intolerant of views and opinions that challenge their own thinking. Consequently, they start resisting any form of guidance from parents and authority. This leads to relationship problems and self-isolating behaviour. In extreme cases, some youngsters resort to substance abuse. My approach in such cases is to establish a sense of rapport with the patient and make him/her feel important
Kiran Malhotra, psychological counsellor, Delhi
College students suffer mainly from academic stress and relationship problems, more specifically problems with the opposite sex. Most college students who come to me are from Delhi University and are academically bright. In my experience as a counsellor, I have realised that the more intelligent and discerning youngsters are the more complex their problems are. Constant pressure and quest to excel and get the best in life is what causes delusion, disappointment and depression. Hence, my approach while counselling is to delve into the unique individual psyche of each patient and identify specific strengths and skills which help to resolve conflict and cope. In some cases, patients are free from any chronic mental disorders and start responding to counselling sessions. But in cases with chronic mental ailments, it is a mix of psychiatric treatment and counselling that works