With Chacha Nehru under the gun from his political rivals for his various alleged follies, his birthday seems to have lost its charm for the adults and schools that hitherto celebrated it with verve and vigor as children's day. A school half-day, sweets, and activity was the key to the morning of November 14. It is still around, but with the patron himself a villain, can his birthday still be celebrated? And should it be? No say some, at least not his birthday. My view? it must, the children need it if not the adults.
This is not a joyous article though it is a joyous day. It is an article filled with foreboding. But its probably a necessary eye-opener given that we all want the best for our children.
India's population is 1,371,467, 719 of which 26% are under 14 and another 18% are between the ages of 15-24. That's 42% of our population who perhaps can be considered children. Mostly single Children, working parents, economic hardship, and social aspirations have combined to put immense stress on the children and their parents - different pressures, and different ways of adapting to them, but pressures nevertheless. What perhaps is sadder, is that the stress of the parents often spills over to the child which is already trying to cope with his own set of stressors - mainly competition and peer pressure.
India is low on the happiness index and high on the mental illness index. Indians consider good financial conditions and physical well-being as the prime movers of their happiness, while personal safety, friends and feeling of control over their lives follow their happiness trail. This according to a survey by market research firm IPSO. India came 9th on their 28 nation ladder. Not bad. But then it was for market research. It's clear that money matters and when money is hard to come by, depression follows.
The World Happiness Report an annual publication of the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network tells a different story. As of March 2019, Finland was ranked the happiest country in the world twice in a row among 156 nations. In 2018, India was placed at 133, but this year its ranking went down to 140 behind our bete noire Pakistan and this is telling! Various factors that determine the happiness levels of a country include life expectancy, social support, income, freedom, trust, health, and generosity, amongst others. For India, it is obvious money first and health next followed by social support. All of which keep eroding.
Interestingly India is also the World’s most depressed country with every 6th Indian suffering from mental illness. A World Health Organization report shows that India is leading as the most depressed country in the world, followed by China and the USA. According to the report India has the most number of cases of anxiety, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder. The study also states that at least 6.5 percent of the Indian population suffers from some form of serious mental disorder.
The increasing cases of mental problems in our country have been attributed to the lack of mental health workers like psychologists, psychiatrists, and doctors. According to the data from 2014, the ratio of mental health workers to the population is just 1 in 1,00,000 people. Overall, India has just about 5,000 psychiatrists and less than 2,000 clinical psychologists. Despite the fact that the Mental Healthcare Bill makes it mandatory for the state governments to provide affordable mental healthcare for all, the cost of treatment remains high in almost all the states. This makes it difficult for the common man to avail of the treatment especially the medicine which must be taken in most cases life long! Its the great pharma rip off. With Mental Illness, you have to start it and you can't give it up. It must be quickly brought under the Jan Aushadi programme of the Government of India. If the cost of stents can be capped, why not mental health meds? Secondly, the value of all sponsored trips of doctors by Pharma Majors must be added to the individual's taxable income.
Given the circumstances, it is not surprising that the suicide rates are climbing. The average suicide rate in India is 10.9 for every lakh people and the majority of people who commit suicide are below 44 years of age. Just yesterday, we heard the news of a young dynamic 35-year-old businessman from Mangalore who committed suicide at his residence at Bengaluru. Apparently he too was suffering from depression.
Here are some shocking stats regarding depression:
The consequences of not addressing adolescent mental health conditions extend to adulthood, impairing both physical and mental health and limiting opportunities to lead fulfilling lives as adults
I conclude with an extract of a letter purportedly written by a 15-year-old to her mother just before she committed suicide. No names or location, and veracity cannot be authenticated. But the contents are reflective of reality and have lessons for all of us and it is for this purpose I share it.
“ *Dear mum*,
It’s with a heavy heart that I write you this note, knowing the amount of pain it is going to cause you. Mum, I want you to know that I love you dearly and will ever love you. If I am given the opportunity to live again I will still choose you as my mum and our family will still be my place of birth. But unfortunately, I know that there is not going to be any such opportunity. Mum, I didn’t want to do this, but I was compelled by circumstances beyond my control to take the plunge. I tried my best to pull through, but my best was not good enough. I battled alone for about thirteen months now until my strength failed me.
You and dad could not decipher what I was going through and maybe I should not blame you for that. My one and only brother came very close to understanding what I was passing through but it was too much for his young mind to comprehend. Mum, I know that you and dad loved me and did everything you could to prove that to me but I was not feeling loved.
You provided for me more than I even wanted, took me to places that most of my mates have not even heard of, yet despite all these, my heart was longing for love. I needed someone who would love me for who I was. I needed someone who could reach to the depth of my soul and feel the vacuum there. The material provisions you spoiled me with could not do that. And I was alone all the while, despite the fact that we laughed together and had gist as a family. Then came the last straw that broke the camel’s back.
Your brother who came to live with us made me believe that he knew exactly what my soul was longing for – companionship. He chose to stay with me when you and dad were too busy to notice my loneliness. He tried to keep me company when I needed someone to talk to but had only gadgets and teddy bears as my company. I was fooled to trust him and he hacked into my foolishness. And he did it perfectly and deeply.
Mum, your brother raped me and used me as sex toy for three whole years. I expected you or dad to notice but none of you did. When he left our house last year I was shattered because I have grown to fill the void of your presence with his dirty deeds. I couldn’t complain because I was afraid to lose him, but when he eventually left for Canada the magnitude of the emptiness in me became too heavy for me to carry. I struggled to forget those experiences but I could not. My grades dropped in school and you and dad quickly arranged for a home lesson teacher.
Mum, that singular act instead of helping me fueled what is about to happen to me a few minutes from now. The home lesson teacher you brought so much reminded me of Uncle and, on several occasions, I felt like grabbing him and making him to fill the gap that my uncle's absence created in me. Mum, I had to do this because I was lonely. Did you ever imagine what I was doing in my room all the time I stayed there alone? Couldn’t you for once have gone out of your way to just spend some time with me so that we could talk?
There are many things I would have liked to tell you but I don’t want to add to your pain so let those other torments be buried with this undignified body of mine. Please make sure that my brother doesn’t get to the point where I am now. Also, tell your friends and colleagues who have children to find out what is happening with their beloved kids before it gets too late.
Many of the things parents do in the name of showing love are not what we the younger ones need. I would have gone, long hours before you will get to read this note. But one cheering thing is that my brother is still there with you. Transfer the love you had for me to him. My bank details and the passwords to my phones and laptops are all in the piece of paper I dropped in the drawer of your dressing table.
I miss you and it pains to empty the content of this bottle in my hand into my mouth but I am constrained to do it all the same. Tell dad and my brother that I love them. Tell my friends not to envy me.
And so parents on this children's day, I must say, do spend time with your children, if necessary give up your job. It will be well worth it in the future. Let your child know he/she is loved for who he /she is, not how he competes or performs. Listen actively but without judgment seeking to understand their concerns and challenges - we all make mistakes and nothing in this life is permanent; be proactive and develop trust, not friendship. Trust is the key. Being a supportive parent means having your child’s best interests at heart but also being present, involved and helpful. Acknowledge failures and help the child cope with them, don't ever sugar coat failures. Also, acknowledge success, but with restraint. Neither is permanent. And Parents - if you are there for your children - not just in a material way, but emotionally and spiritually, they will always be there for you. Rest assured.
Parents, be aware, and Children - have a great day- don't bother about whats chronicled above - it's for your parents!
© Copyright NewsKarnataka 2019 . All Rights Reserved.