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Monday, Aug 19, 2019

Arnavaz Damania exclusively for HT: Suicide awareness should be part of school curriculum

Youth have a hard time coping with failure, and neither families nor social institutions offer adequate support

pune Updated: Jun 30, 2018 16:29 IST
Arnavaz Damania, founder, Connecting NGO
Arnavaz Damania, founder, Connecting NGO
Hindustan Times, Pune

Stress is the body’s way of responding to any kind of danger, jolting you into a flight/fight mechanism. While stress can be a good motivator if lasted for a short period of time, a constant emergency mode might be harmful for your mind and body. 

Stress can affect you mentally and physically and it has been known to cause significant damage to your mood, productivity, relationships and general quality of life. Under high stress your biological age can be 30 times higher than your calendar age.

At present, stress can be widely seen affecting the young population of the nation, especially the 15-35 age group. Stress can manifest in various ways and it is crucial to be acquainted with its causes and how to manage it.

What causes stress?

The youth today has many stress-ers. There are three major stressers that affect the young generation today. Family background, where broken families or poor relationships with members show higher stress levels in the children as there is no healthy environment to learn and develop.

Economic conditions are also seen playing a major role in causing stress. Poverty, resulting in disadvantageous living and lack of decent education can have detrimental effects resulting in stress and substance abuse in youngsters.

The third and most important is the academic pressure faced by this generation. Young people have a hard time coping with failure in examinations and careers, and neither families nor other social institutions offer adequate support or solace.

Other causes for stress include parental pressure, sexual identity , sexual orientation, bullying, abuse, relationships and dating – contemporary India is more progressive making it tough to match traditionalist expectations, forceful early marriage and societal pressure to live in a certain way and cultural differences.

This results in mental health problems like mood disorders, depression and anxiety, schizophrenia, physical illness, addiction, and general isolation.

A lack of support or lack of awareness and interaction leads to suicide in most of the cases. India has one of the world’s highest suicide rates for youth aged 15 to 29, according to a 2012 Lancet report. In 2015, the number of student suicides stood at 8,934. In the five years leading to 2015, 39,775 students killed themselves. The number of attempted suicides, many unreported, is likely to be much higher. The WHO has defined sustainable development goals and elaborated the impact of mental illnesses and suicide on them. The suicide rate in India in 2015 at 15.7/100,000 is higher than the regional average of 12.9 and the global average of 10.6. Suicide is the leading cause of death among those aged 15–29 in India. There remains a massive unaddressed need within the population.

What can be done?

It is important to acknowledge the signs of stress. If you are feeling stressed, then you may be having trouble with sleeping and concentrating, and with being positive and hopeful. Your body may be trying to get you to recognise that it is feeling stressed by giving you headaches, making you feel sick, giving you indigestion, a fluttery feeling in the tummy, or any one of a number of other signs that are trying to show you that you need to relax. Recognising these symptoms and working on how to deal with it should be of utmost priority. 

The remedy also lies in raising awareness about these issues. Mental wellness and suicide awareness should be a part of the school curriculum. Various counsellors emphasise better parenting during emotional crises. Parents need to hear their children out and understand what they are going through instead of dismissing it as ‘a folly of this age’.

India faces an 87% shortage of mental-health professionals. The government should take steps in promoting mental health and increasing expenditure for actionable infrastructure like mental health facilities, trained professionals who are adept in dealing with these issues, for guidance and support. 

Stress is pushing the youth towards suicide. Young people need an outlet. They need to have a safe space where they can feel free and comfortable talking about their feelings, expressing their worries and venting about their problems without fearing judgement or stigma. Prevention starts with recognising the warning signs and symptoms and offering help. Acknowledging and talking about suicide may reduce suicidal thoughts, instead of increasing them.

Pune based NGO - Connecting - works towards providing support to those in emotional distress using the philosophy of mindfulness based active listening, thereby preventing suicide. It runs a distress helpline for those in emotional distress and/or feeling suicidal since 2008 that can be accessed by anyone. The helpline offers emotional support to anyone who is in emotional, mental distress or feeling suicidal. It provides a non-judgemental, non-advisory listening space to the caller.

Helpline numbers: 1800-209-4353 (toll free) and 9922001122 all days, 12 pm to 8 pm.

Walk-in facility: 12 pm to 5 pm, Monday – Saturday

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First Published: Jun 29, 2018 16:07 IST

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