Children are not only the supreme asset of their parents but also of the nations. But it is a heart aching observation during this eve of World Mental Health Month of October (10th October being Mental Health Day) that our stigma regarding mental health issues, especially if it is in case of children, is still prevailing. As WHO examined, one (1) out of every five (5) children suffer from some kind of mental health problem. Sad enough to say, that in India, every hour one student commits suicide. According to the Lancet report (2012), India has world’s largest suicide rate and mental health issue for young children and adult students (age between 15 years to 29 years). In the present day, adolescents and young student population in India are not only suffering from depression leading to suicide, but also having poor mental health concerns, pertaining to problems like Aggression, Anxiety, Substance abuse, Addiction to virtual reality, Daydreaming and procrastination, Career confusions, Relationship maladjustments, and many more.
However, to pen it down our Child Mental Health Policy and School Mental Health Pogrammes are in effect, but sad enough to say they are not at all effective. Only 0.06% have been spent on mental health budget in India, and even in present day after witnessing so many mishaps school authorities are still ignorant about student mental health. Most schools still do not have qualified school psychologists, and even if few of the schools’ are having them, they treat counselors/ psychologists as an extra academic staff member. In India, the subject of mental health is still taken as something very unimportant for carrying out day-to-day life. Most of the school going children feel ashamed to talk to a mental health professional as they think that by doing so they will be considered as ‘Mad or Psycho person’, and if few of them try to talk it out, the school community and parents assume that the child is faking it to escape studies and having a good time chit-chatting with counselor. In addition to it, even the other students start bullying the child for visiting psychologist/ counselor, which makes the situation even worse.
Nevertheless, it is an alarming scenario, and the most unfortunate thing is even after witnessing all these concerns relating to child mental health, in India, there still exists taboo and stigma to talk about and seek help for having a poor mental health condition.
But all these problems can be addressed and prevented. As an old proverb says “charity begins at home”, similarly it is necessary for parents to talk to their children openly about different concerns related to mental health. It is important for parents to understand, and make their children understand that just like any other physical ailment, sometimes it is okay to feel mentally low as well. It is natural and happens to everyone at some point in their life. One can always speak his/ her mind and say it when he/ she is not feeling well and having mood swings. Parents should tell their children that there is no shame in feeling in a certain way, and it is always better to embrace, accept and talk it out rather than repressing. The qualified counseling experts not only take care of different mental health concerns of children and students, but they can also help advice parents and students on career choices based on interest, aptitude, personality and intelligence level of the child, thus guiding youngsters to proper career direction.
Nowadays, with the advancement of technology, there is absolutely no problem in reaching out to mental health professionals and at the same time keep the whole matter confidential. Parents can always assist their children in mental health help-seeking behaviour through App services. The user-friendly App services on child mental health are the best possible way to deal with children’s mental health concerns, where parents become partners with mental health experts to help children most efficiently and confidentially. These Apps are easily available to download and use in all the smartphones and computers. One of such Apps, rather it will be better to say, India’s first child health and mental care App is HappyDNA that has a team of professional experts to help parents deal with any developmental and emotional concerns of their children.
Henceforth, to help spread awareness regarding the matter and make present generation emotionally strong, only the parent community can become the best guide for their children to irradicate the stigma associated with mental health help-seeking behaviour, because “there is no health, without mental health”!