Mental Health: Taboo, Trauma & Tolerance in Teens

October 10, 2022

10th October is World Mental Health Day and the theme for 2022 is “Making mental health and well-being for all global priority”. This day gives us an opportunity to introspect about our mental health, along with ways and means of protecting and enhancing it. In general, most people, when there is a small physical illness rush to a doctor. Whereas a great majority of people, even among educated circles are unable to identify mental health issues and therefore unable to provide timely intervention. In some other cases, even after identifying, they neglect it due to taboo or stigma. The taboo is still a barrier, which prevents some parents taking their teenagers to a mental health professional. There is yet another group of people who believe that such disorders can be cured with continuous advices, scoldings and persuasions.

Ankith, 14 year old boy has been a topper in the class till class 9 and now in class 10, his exam results are below average, he forgets what he study, developed sleep disorder, frequently weeping by not understanding what is happening to him (Anxiety disorder).

Saloni, 17-year-old girl, studying in class 11 in central school feels annoyed even when her friends are touching her and wants to wash her hands and face every hour due to an extreme sense of hygiene, shows temper tantrum for satisfying her desires and demands (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). Ajmal Roshan, a class 12 student in a leading school feels lonely, lost interest in mingling with friends, feels not worthy himself, having negative thoughts, having an increased tendency to withdraw from groups including in close family circles. Our children are facing these type of manifold psychological disturbances, which are badly in need of intervention in the right time.

There are some social pattern of thoughts and believes which prevent teens and their parents from approaching counsellors/psychologists/psychiatrists for treatment of mental conditions or disorders. It is quite natural that our teenagers may face some psychological disturbances such as extreme sadness, anger, frustrations, loneliness, unwanted worries about the future, frequent complaints about something etc. If neglected for a long period, the above symptoms may lead to some complex mental disorders. Only because by thinking that the neighbours and relatives will form negative opinions and spread rumours and gossips you cannot negate the child’s right to get the assistance of a right expert in the right time. We may take our children to hospital even for a negligible temperature or a mild stomachache, but showing hesitation to take our ward when he/she has anxiety or depressive disorders or obsessive-compulsive disorder, or mood disorder is a cruelty.

Awareness, Alertness and Action

Lack of awareness among the various stakeholders such as parents, teachers and peer group continues to be the biggest hurdle in providing help for the teenagers at the time of distress. In the absence of a felt need of seeking assistance from an expert due to taboo or any other familial reasons, lack of availability of facility in the near vicinity, are some of the major reasons, which may aggravate their difficulties.

Parents, teachers and friends must be capable of understanding any small variation in the behavior pattern of teens. Other than momentary, if such variations exist for a relatively long period, i.e. for more than a week, it has to be dealt seriously and brought to the notice of a mental health professional. During the pandemic, many people lost their precious lives. These incidents might have created traumatic impacts upon children and other dependents of the deceased person. Studies show that in the post Covid scenario, in general the psychological disorders have increased more than 25 percent. It clearly indicates that we must be alert. Action is the next step of alertness. Immediately after identifying a need, providing specific help is of utmost importance. Under the guidance and supervision of a trained professional, the intervention strategies should be chalked out. Consistency and continuation of the counselling/treatment is equally important. If it stops in the midway there is of no use, or rather, there will be negative result.

Not only pandemic, but also endemic of the society like child sex abuse (CSA) silently and mercilessly occurring which creates long lasting trauma in children and teenagers. It may lead to post traumatic stress disorders (PTSD) as well. Even though teenagers have less tolerance level to any of these occurrences, due to tension and fear about family and society, they tend to hide such episodes even from parents, if parents encourage their children to ventilate their feelings and emotions in a free manner only, they will be exhibiting the courage to share such experiences.

The over protective and pampering approach of certain parents make the children very fragile and sensitive. Right from early childhood across adolescence, till they attain adulthood, if they are not given any deliberate training to overcome smaller issues and roadblocks in life, they won’t become stronger. Therefore, children’s and teenager’s frustration tolerance will be less, whereby they will not be confident enough to solve even minor problems in daily life.

Parents and teachers can train their children to develop the right attitude to accept failures, tolerance to listen any amount of criticism, strength to handle and overcome negative situation etc. By developing a positive self-talk our teenagers must be able to successfully defeat the self-harming thoughts and to energies the self-urge for self-help and the motivation to help others at the hours of need. Our teenagers must be oriented towards seeking help or advice at the time of a confusion or conflict, which is the sign of personal development and net result of education. They should also be made to understand that every problem in life, minor or major, will have an effective solution, but the patience and tolerance is of vital importance. It is as if, in a winter morning, if you are patient enough to wait till the fog is cleared on the road, you will soon get a beautiful driving experience on the same road. Once we convince our own mind that, the temporary fogs are common in life, we will be tolerant enough to wait for the sunny day. Since the teenagers, who are very much vulnerable to anxiety, depression etc. their resilience can be enhanced with the timely support of friends/classmates who can act as ‘peer-counsellors’. Their sensibility and sensitivity to those issues faced by their friends and timely reporting to some responsible adults can enhance the quality of life of many teenagers and their families.

By Dr N K Vijayan Karippal
N K Vijayan Karippal is the principal of Expert PU College, Valachil, Mangaluru and a consultant educational psychologist.
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Comment on this article

  • Ben D'Souza Prabhu, Mangalore, Bombay Bandra now in Canada

    Wed, Oct 12 2022

    A really a " Thought Provoking " Write-up our dear friend Dr Vijayan ! Your Contribution is well received Sir ! Thank you for encouraging and evoking our thoughts ! May the Good Lord Bless you & your Household!!!

  • Rudolf Rodrigues, Mumbai

    Tue, Oct 11 2022

    Very informative post; mental problems and associated substance abuse are incredibly rising across all types of people for varied reasons and unless awareness is spread even the well educated would not suspect the same till the damage has been done! Literate people can easily find out their depression and anxiety severity by online tests, after answering a series of questions and get the results based on the severity, they can take immediate help from a mental health professional!!

  • Sonal lobo, Bengaluru

    Tue, Oct 11 2022

    A big shout out to you Dr. Vijayan for such an thought provoking, informative and apt article Mental health needs to be considered important along with the right approach of bringing up children. When they are taught to face the challenges of life, that's when they will become stronger and gain the mental ability and emotional stability to face the uncertainities of life. Totally agree.

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Title: Mental Health: Taboo, Trauma & Tolerance in Teens

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