James Donaldson notes:
Welcome to the “next chapter” of my life… being a voice and an advocate for mental health awareness and suicide prevention, especially pertaining to our younger generation of students and student-athletes.
Getting men to speak up and reach out for help and assistance is one of my passions. Us men need to not suffer in silence or drown our sorrows in alcohol, hang out at bars and strip joints, or get involved with drug use.
Having gone through a recent bout of depression and suicidal thoughts myself, I realize now, that I can make a huge difference in the lives of so many by sharing my story, and by sharing various resources I come across as I work in this space. http://bit.ly/JamesMentalHealthArticle
Relentless humiliation and rebuke from her science teacher over the last few months allegedly forced a Class 7 student to kill herself, the police told news agency IANS. the teacher allegedly scolded her in front of the entire class and called her “characterless”.
The 12-year-old girl from a Delhi school hanged herself from a ceiling fan at her home on 1 December. Her suicide is yet another case of a student taking the final step.
She had scribbled her teacher’s name on her palms and hands and left a note explaining the reason she took the extreme step. She wrote that she does not want to go to school anymore.
The police add that in the note, she apologised to her mother and grandmother and on one of her palms wrote “I love you”. The mother, an advocate, found her daughter’s body after returning from work around 4pm.
“She had been insisting that I change her school but I did not know how serious the situation was. I never imagined she would take the step of suicide,” the mother said, sobbing.
While the police is investigating the case and the school authorities say they’re cooperating, we have to start understanding where we go wrong with kids’ mental health woes.
Where Do We Go Wrong?
India has perhaps the worst teen suicide rate in the world, where one student dies by suicide every hour. We’re known as the suicide capital of the world, with 63,000 annual suicides in the age group of 10-24. Thus, the role of school counsellors, and safe spaces for children to talk, becomes even more important. And that is where we fail.
First, we lack miserably in respecting boundaries of teenagers or their privacy and decisions. This makes them feel isolated and targeted. If a teacher was harassing the girl about a boy she was friends with, why was there no school authority or counsellor to whom she could go and discuss this with?
Why do we not teach our children that they will not be punished for talking about their problems? This lack of trust can be damaging. There are so many issues that these kids are facing, academic pressure, bullying, loneliness. There are so many causes for their disturbance and we do nothing to address those.Dr Amit Sen, Child Psychiatrist
Secondly, why are there no school counsellors, even when CBSE guidelines mandate it? And when they’re there, their role is reduced to doing miscellaneous work. Student’s also don’t feel comfortable approaching them for advice and see it as a punishment. Quite often they are seen as spies for the school administration.
In our cultural context, a child is not seen as an individual. The counsellor is also answerable to so many people, the school administration, the parents. It’s so important to recognise that the student is an individual and he/she has a right to privacy.Swarnima Bhargava, Clinical Psychologist, Children First
What Should Be Done?
Strengthen the system of mental healthcare for children. The institute Children First, for example, works with schools to help them build structures and programmes. They carry out regular training workshops with teachers, students and work with the community as a whole.
First of all, schools should give due respect and delegate proper work to counsellors, they are the most useful part of the school system, says Sudeshna Nath, Senior School Counsellor, DPS Vasundhra. The schools have to diligently make the best possible use of them.
Bhargava adds that schools needs to do much more to address this problem.
It’s not enough to just have a counsellor on board. You need to train your entire faculty to recognise problems and address them. It has to be a continuous process of learning.
(Looking for help? Reach out to this list of safe mental health professionals compiled by The Health Collective.)