Ashi was irritated most of the times and she would lose patience with her younger sister. She had a school board examination on her head and she was worried of the outcome and her results. She did not like missing even a single mark in her examinations. She wanted her sister also to do well and often coached her with some science subjects but lately she was losing her temper. She would fly into a rage and break things whatever came in her hand. This scared her parents who referred her to the counsellor. She was undergoing depression since some months which was manifesting itself as ‘irritation, anger and rage’.
Shruti was withdrawing into her shell day by day. This was observed by her close friends as they would try to reach to her for social outings which she would decline with some excuse. This began to worry them after the initial misunderstanding and misgivings they noticed a pattern and decided to take note of it. They tried their best in various ways by humouring her up, taking her to parties, seeing movies and films but her moods did not seem to lift up much. Her friends were smart enough to report it to her mother who became alert for her child.
Ashish was unnecessarily getting worried about each and every thing lately. His mind would often get into the fear of developing some serious disease. He was afraid of shaking hands with his college friends for fear of infection. He avoided hugging them for fear of being hurt by them. He knew it was all going irrational in his head but he could not control his fears. He made frequent trips to the doctor for chest pain and for a muscle spasm and the doctor assured him that he was fit as a fiddle and had no disease at all. But his mind would not agree with his logic for it had its own logic so to say! He was going crazy and needed re-assurance from whoever was willing to listen to him. He was actually suffering from anxiety and depression.
Each and every child that we come across in our clinic is depressed or anxious about life. Depression is a much misunderstood or shall we say an ignored phenomenon. The incidence is growing rapidly and alarmingly especially among the teens and youth. Among all the suicides that are committed in India, one third of the victims are youth. This is a sad and shocking number. It was predicted by WHO about a decade ago that the second largest cause of deaths in the world by 2020 will be ‘depression’ after cardio-vascular diseases. It seems young minds are under assault like never before and it appears that children seem to be caught in a proverbial ‘chakravayuh’, a maze, with no way of finding out the exit point. Life certainly needs to be simplified for our kids and parents who complicate the meaning and purpose of life are acting no less than ‘innocent criminals’. For with all their good intentions and intent they are pushing their children into depression and suicide.
The reasons could be as many for the world is just not the same as it was some decades ago. Rapid technological changes and economics have changed the face and fabric of social norms and culture. Parental expectations are sky high and as families shrink in size, the onus of being the star kid falls on the shoulder of that one kid who is constantly under the gaze of his parents to achieve and reach the skies.
A society that believes in gurus of various kinds, and any kind, even to the point of some of them being ridiculous and some being downright criminals, is unmindful of a progressing science that is breaking new frontiers in mental illness and mental health. This following of gurus indicate a mindset that goes more by ‘faith healing’ and less by ‘science and its methods’. We still live in the dark ages by this standard and need to educate and aware ourselves of what’s happening in a science called ‘psychology’. All this modern wisdom and more is available in the ancient texts of our civilization but is subsumed by the fake ‘baba’ culture that is unfortunately dominating our society. Everyone today who believes has a stake in our children and the youth should educate themselves on mental health issues and depression especially and extend a hand to provide ‘first- aid’ to the ones who need it badly.
Today, with the spread of medical knowledge people have become aware of specific physical symptoms which might need immediate medical help. This awareness saves many lives that may be in danger if ignored and left unattended. This is precisely what we need to do with depression and other mental illnesses- provide them immediate psychological first aid and then refer them to a professional. The ‘first-aid’ in depression is all about ‘opening out the depressed person and making him talk’. This ‘venting out’ is the biggest relief we can give the depressed person. It is also about listening with empathy with a non-judgemental approach to the thoughts of the person. It is about ‘validating his negative and depressed feelings’ and reflecting it back to him. After this initial ice-breaking with the person, we need to encourage and assist them in seeking professional consultation with a psychologist. By giving such first aid we can save a life.
(Rotary Action Group on Mental Health Initiatives (RAGMHI) promotes positive mental health to help children, adults and families lead meaningful and productive lives. ‘Its mission is to act as a worldwide resource for Rotarians and others in the field of mental health and mental illness and to promote, protect, restore and to help build a lost capital to make a happier, healthier society and world’. RAGMHI has a 7- member Board of Directors. It has a website (http://ragonmentalhealth.org) where interested Rotarians, their family-members and Alumni, and non- Rotarians can register online and become members for a small fee. Those interested can get in touch with me for information and action.)