Social-Emotional Learning To Deal With Anxiety Among Students In Most-Depressed India

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Each year, between 30-40 people per 100,000 Indians aged between 15 and 29, kill themselves In India. This accounts for about a third of all suicides in the country, making India the country which has highest number of suicide among the youths, according to Lancet report 2012, the last survey report done on the issue.

The national mental health Survey 2016 showed that one in 20 people suffered from depression in India. One in three respondents was in the 18-29 year age group.

HERE LIES THE PROBLEM

Absence of social interaction, heavy dependence on gadgets, lack of parental guidance and the sense of entitlement that the Gen-next is growing up in, is leaving them incapable of tackling social, relational and academic setbacks.

 And the lack of sensitisation among teachers and administrators, is also a major area of concern, given that an increasing number of students are suffering from anxiety and depression.

Mustering up her courage, 19-year-old Samridhi (name changed), a student at a leading design institute in Delhi, sent an email to a teacher, confiding about her inability to cope with her classes and having sleep problem because of which she was unable to submit her assignment. Samridhi had hoped that her teacher would understand and help her. But the concerned teacher forwarded the e-mail to a visiting counsellor.

It was only when Samridhi visited the counsellor that she learned she was suffering from anxiety at being unable to handle the academic stress in a professional institute. The counsellor told her parents that the teacher ought to have spoken to Samridhi first, instead of referring her to a counsellor.

“This is where our colleges and institutions are failing the students,” said the counsellor who didn’t want to be named. “The faculty members are not equipped to manage or are even sensitised to the psychological wellbeing of students,” stated the counsellor.

This is not the view of just one counsellor. Dr Geetanjali Kumar, who has been working as a counsellor for decades, holds a similar opinion. “After interacting with students at an engineering college and a design institute in Delhi during my visits, I have concluded that the staff do not understand or are able to decipher the tell-tale signs in youngsters,” Kumar said. “If students are quiet and withdrawn or their attendance is dipping, the staff feel the individuals are problem children, without making an effort to understand the underlying concerns.”

HOW TO DEAL WITH IT

“Researchers have found that even more than IQ, your emotional awareness and abilities to handle feelings will determine your success and happiness in all walks of life, including family relationships.” — John Gottman, author.

Appreciating that emotional awareness and self-regulatory skills are a linchpin in personal success, has brought greater focus to educational aims. Countries like the USA and the UK have already started taking well chalked out plans to deal with issues which appear to be a lack of emotional education rather than mental illness.

In the US, more and more schools are adding Social-emotional learning to the classic curriculum of Language, Maths, Science, History and Geography. In the UK too, the Department for Education has unveiled plans to make Wellbeing Education, universal in schools by 2020.

Knowledge is power, so arming school children with the knowledge that they need to manage their wellbeing feels like an appropriate response.

Mark Greenberg,  a pioneer of Social-emotional learning at Penn State suggests, “We can teach children how to overcome fear, hatred, anger and anxiety. SEL programs have proven that children can develop lifelong abilities such as self-awareness, anger management and impulse control, and positive qualities such as empathy and compassion.”

THE NEED OF THE HOUR

Meanwhile in India, the need for an urgent look at how to sensitise students, teachers and administrators to mental health setbacks is already being felt among some academicians. The School of Languages, Literature and Culture at Jawaharlal University recently requested the administration to constitute a committee to address mental health issues among scholars, proving that how anxiety and depression are no longer absent from classrooms.

University students have been the hardest-hit demographics, when it comes to their mental-health globally.

There is an immediate explanation for why India’s elderly have it better than India’s young. Taking care of the elderly has been an important part of Indian familial traditions. Their need are widely recognised and addressed, and they enjoy a measure of respect by virtue of their age.

But in recent times, as young Indians are becoming more progressive, their traditionalist households are becoming less supportive of their choices pertaining to financial independence, marriage age, premarital sex, rehabilitation and taking care of the elderly are becoming reasons often responsible for suicide among the young people in their 20s.

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