Teenage Mental Health in India and the Need for Awareness
A person undergoes severe biological, cognitive, and psychological changes as an Adolescent. Apart from physical maturation, many neurological changes also take place which is not so obvious because of their intangible nature.
Many people remember it as the most enjoyable phase of their life. The newfound freedom, the urge to explore, the craving for adventure, and minimal social responsibilities the adolescent phase make it so memorable.
But if you look under the surface, many people describe their teen life as the most vulnerable and the worst phase of their lives. According to NCBI, “9.8 million Indians aged 13–17 suffer from mental health disorders”. And we are not even counting the cases that were either not diagnosed or were underdiagnosed
Problems faced by the Indian teenager
Due to the lack of awareness of mental health disorders, parents don’t realize that the disturbed behaviour of their child can be caused by a disorder. Many parents just outright deny its possibility. No wonder, teenagers feel unheard and start living a secluded life which furthers adds to their problem.
The lack of awareness also creates apathy among their peer groups in schools and colleges. Teenagers are often subjected to bullying and teasing and face difficulty in making friends.
We live in a country where children are admitted to competitive coaching at the age of 12. Their lives are confined to schools and coaching classes. At such a young age, when teenagers should be getting exercise for their body and forming friendships, their days are spent in front of books.
Many students find the subjects in their curriculum hard to understand. But getting their doubts cleared in a class of 40 students due to their introverted nature or social anxiety poses a completely different challenge for them. Such students start resenting education and learning. Unfortunately, our education systems have no solution to this problem.
The fear of failure and the pressure of career and studies have made stress and anxiety a common occurrence in teenagers.
The disorders can be caused by a variety of factors like upbringing, genetics, a chemical imbalance in the brain, poor nutrition, unsupportive social environment, etc., and if left untreated, the problems continue later in life and start affecting the people around them.
When teenagers find no hope in their friends and family, they resort to substance abuse or suicide. There’s a serious need for spreading awareness about coping with depression and other mental disorders.
Teenagers spread one-third of their day either in school or college. These institutions have a great opportunity to shape the lives of their students. A supportive staff and a professional counsellor will provide a nurturing environment.
Increasing awareness among our citizens may or may not bring a huge change in the mindset of today’s parents but we have a better chance to educate today’s youngsters so that they can turn out to be supportive parents tomorrow.
We need to teenagers realize that it’s okay to seek help. They have the option to seek help anonymously if social stigma is an issue. Many organizations are working towards raising awareness and providing support to people to win the battle against mental health disorders. Many helplines numbers are just a Google search away.
If calling helplines makes one uncomfortable, we have applications for our smartphone that can connect us with certified counsellor and therapists. These applications have the option for video and text chat to make help easier and comfortable to access.
Mental disorders can be cured but a mass awareness spreading is required to make people realize this.
India is certainly improving in terms of economy and opportunities, but we severely lag in providing mentally ill teenagers (and the population as a whole) with an environment that promotes support and recovery.
Often times, the whole burden of getting help is on the teenager and they buckle under pressure. But teenagers should realize that can seek help if they want to. They don’t have to keep suffering as many mental disorders are curable. A healthy and happy life is possible.