‘Be your children’s friend to understand them better’

Mental health issues can affect anybody irrespective of their education, class, sex, creed, etc. Suicide is almost always a manifestation of some underlying mental health issue. The increasing number of suicide cases in India has become a matter of concern over past few years, and we need to do something regarding this issue. As the next generation is our future, and without them we are lost

'Be your children's friend to understand them better'

My dear friends, recently a series of unfortunate events have occured. In the last, 15 days, two innocent youngsters had taken a drastic step of ending their lives. One boy was the child of a couple, who work as bureaucrats. The other boy allegedly lost his life to a horrific online game called ‘Blue Whale’.

In this article, I want to address mental health issues, which can affect anybody irrespective of their education, class, sex, creed, etc. Suicide is almost always a manifestation of some underlying mental health issue. The increasing number of suicide cases in India has become a matter of concern over past few years.

Surprisingly, self-harm is common cause of death in teenagers and people in their twenties as per a study published in The Lancet. There are certain clues which can be identified in a youngster when they are facing mental health issues. They may range from minor signs to full blown symptoms.

The presentation of these symptoms can be varied. A high index of suspicion from our end is crucial to identify the same. Parents of children across all age groups should be made aware about how they can identify the early signs.

Today, parents who are working, do it because they have to financially support their family, however that is not enough.

Emotional support is what a child needs from his parents, for example, the thought of ‘being there for me, no matter what’ is missing. The parents just don’t have enough time and the child feels like he is living with strangers or financial providers. Sharing the turmoil that he/she is going through becomes a distant dream.

There are parents of other types too, who are excessively overbearing, trying to discipline their child beyond normal limits. The kids of such parents emotionally shut out themselves and relate to them as ‘teachers doing their assigned task.’ They feel empty on the inside and feel as if nobody is there for them.

The changes that parents have to make are as follows:

  • Permissive parenting, this means that they have to try and give their kids the adequate freedom for doing what they want, while keeping a check on them and intervening only when crucial issues are involved.

  • Try to talk to your kids from their point of view, see yourself in that situation as a kid and what would you do if you were a kid at that point in time.

  • Once a child realises that his parents care for her/him. She/he will open up about the darkest secrets which are slowing eating away their mind.

  • Assure the child that you yourself have gone through this phase in life and you are here for them to help them find a way out of any situation. This makes a big difference.

Warning signs for parents to look out for:

  • If a child gets irritable on trivial things, and does not want to be in your company at all.

  • Irregular times in falling asleep and waking up

  • A sudden decline in their academic performance

  • A change in their friend circle

  • A decrease in self-care in the child toward himself/herself

  • Threatening to do something to oneself if things don’t go their way

  • Suddenly deactivating their social media accounts

  • Any sort of behaviour which is not typical to their personality

  • Any odd display of emotion on social media should not be taken lightly

The most common causes which lead a child/youngster to commit suicide are depression, drug abuse, alcoholism, personality disorders, relationship issues and academic problems. All parents, whether they are educated or uneducated, must take some time out from their daily routine, regularly; they must have a proactive approach toward their children and must make efforts to befriend their child. Parents need to accept that this could happen to any child and rather than denying the possibility of their child is suffering from a mental health issue, they should have a vigilant approach.

The author is a Mumbai based psychiatrist.