Youth & mental health awareness by Nazia Naheed Kundi
While scrolling through Facebook, a piece of shocking news came to my knowledge that a bright student of NUML Islamabad committed suicide. He was a shining student and a musician too. My mind started thinking over the reasons that a young guy full of life preferred death instead of living a hopeful life. Human beings suffer from many issues during life but the capacity to cope with them is higher at a young age as compared to the rest of life stages. Then this sort of news shook my head , being a psychologist and a teacher at higher levels of education.
By searching the facts and figures, it found unbelievable that the suicide rate has gone up by 30 percent during the last quarter. Globally suicide is considered the fourth leading cause of death among young people. Although Pakistan is said to have lower suicide rates than other countries, the absence of official statistics makes these rates hard to determine yet the escalating number of suicide cases reported signifies that there is a mental health emergency that remains unaddressed.
Pakistan is among the few countries in the world where attempting suicide is a criminal offense with imprisonment of up to one year or with a fine or both, according to Section 325 of the Pakistan Penal Code. Now my brain searched for the reasons keeping in mind that youngsters are considered emotional and could not tolerate much. But it was just a side of the picture as the reality is much more bitter. More than 90 percent of people who commit suicide have some form of mental illness at the time of their death. It occurs when stressors and health issues come together to create a feeling of hopelessness and despair. The most common problems reported by patients are loneliness, family quarrels, domestic violence, and interpersonal relationship issues. More than the chemical changes in the brain, suicide is linked with the thoughts running in the brain. When a person is unable to find solutions to his problems and has lost the ability to control their thoughts, they resort to suicide.
For instance, if a person stops enjoying friends’ company, and avoids social gatherings then he should be asked to understand what brings this change.
Many youngsters reported that societal pressures, low stature in the community, insecurity about grades in school, and the lack of ability to make their parents proud led them to depression and anxiety, and the availability of no one to reach out to and give a vent to their feelings worsened the situation. Lower-income class youth also face the issues of diversity in terms of their status and facilities. Our authorities are just trying to fulfill the basic needs of the masses and the need to satisfy mental health issues is neglected.
Social media forums are also playing their role negatively by drawing a gap between the realities of life and fantasies. Along with that, the students are under great stress due to the increasing pressure of getting higher and higher marks to meet the deadly high merit criteria for admissions and jobs. The corrupt culture is obvious in our public departments which compromise merit easily. And on the other hand, competitive exams are considered a hard nut to crack. Hence, sources of stress include not only curricular burdens but also personal competence, interpersonal relations, peer pressure, personal endurance, and most importantly, unavailability of emotional and psychological support. Favoritism is one of the main reasons for stress in our university students as the writer personally witnesses it. Teacher-student discord, tough working routines as well as lack of appreciation and encouragement are known to play a pivotal role. Bullying by fellows leads to feelings of inferiority, loneliness, hopelessness, and of being worthless. Low academic grades result in feelings of guilt, and high personal or academic expectations leading to stress in turn leading in some cases to alcohol and drugs. Unmonitored internet usage and lack of communication between parents and children are the leading causes of suicide among young people.
The scarcity of mental health professionals, and psychiatrists and their inaccessibility, especially in far-flung rural areas, is one of the many reasons people don’t opt for any professional help. The cost of treatment also bound our youngsters to avail of mental health facilities. While our public hospitals provide mental health services with nominal or no charges, many people prefer private treatment due to the inequality between public and private hospitals.
Governmental policies and execution will take a long time to enforce the implementation mechanisms so there lies a great responsibility on the shoulders of parents, siblings, teachers, and friends of the suicidal-prone individuals. Friends, instead of making a mockery of a trait of an individual in their group, should put their energy into elevating the one suffering from mental health issues. Teachers should play the role of real teachers by paying special attention to their students’ mood swings, issues, family crises, and academic grades. They must try to encourage their weak students rather than shun them. They must arrange healthy activities at their institutes for the mental relaxation of the youngsters. This phenomenon must be dealt at a priority otherwise the results will be devastating for our nation.
There are so many social taboos attached to mental health. People are afraid to talk about these issues even with their dear ones. There is a need to enlighten society that mental health is as important as physical health. Our state should legislate laws to create awareness among the masses so that people may finally realize the importance of mental health. All social and religious institutions should come forward in educating people that mental health is essential for a better life. Last but not the least, the society and state must impose an emergency on mental health issues so that a healthy society may be achieved.
The writer is an M.Phil. Psychology and presently working as a lecturer.