Mental Health for a happy childhood!

Written by: Ananya Shetty, Intern UPAY

When India went on lockdown in March, many of us were “prisoned” into our homely abodes, and these children had no place to call home but the streets. Helplines that received two hundred thousand phone calls a week now received three hundred thousand calls from anxious children. The pandemic has brought on great emotional and psychological strain on their little minds who have experienced a lot for their age and are vulnerable, are at a high risk of developing chronic mental health disorders – an aspect seldom addressed by those trying to help them.

A study in 2018 found that more than 50% of the children faced verbal or physical abuse in the preceding week. As we try to help these children, it is essential that we also address these harmful effects. It shows itself in forms of reduced self-esteem, high levels of hopelessness, poor sleep patterns, and reduced cognitive abilities.
These are signs of psychological distress that put the kids into a high-risk group for developing mental illnesses. Helping them to unburden the weight of their trauma can go a long way in improving the quality of their life.

One of the main concerns of the undertakers of the cause is substance abuse among these young street children. They tend to resort to drug use to cancel out the pain they feel or find that one moment of elation in their day. Most drugs aren’t the sophisticated kind we see on screens. They are household items like paint thinners, glue, or solvents. These substances consumed over a long period can stunt the growth of these developing children.
What’s more concerning is the many o the street kids are without regular healthy adult supervision. A child forms his or her first relationship with their parents. They are dependent on them for holistic development. To grow well physically, emotionally, and spiritually, children need to spend their childhood as a child and be allowed to grow in their own time.

Identifying the wellness needs

Thus, while we try to cater to their physical and educational needs, we must recognize their mental health concerns as well. Trying to ensure that volunteers are trained to identify signs of severe psychological distress among children helps to develop a plan of action to address their mental health needs.

The early signs of learning disabilities in children subsequently aids to tailor teaching methods and modify the plan to accommodate the children’s special needs. Since the teaching volunteers would form an important part of the children’s lives, they can conduct activities that help improve emotional intelligence among different groups of children. It will also raise their sense of awareness and belongingness.

Participation of trained counselors

Strategic outreach programs should be developed to reach out to the children dealing with substance abuse, to get them the treatment they need. The psychologists and counselors who have the field experience can participate to develop successful intervention strategies.

The street kids may have been abandoned by their family but they are still the children of our community. As members of the community who are learning the importance of mental health in our lives it is important we extend this understanding to those who need it the most. It is said that education will open doors where none seems to exist. However, ensuring good mental health for individuals will help them carry themselves through that door with self-worth and attitude that will last them a lifetime!

Published by UPAY - उपाय

UPAY ...An initiative to educate Under Privileged Children from Slums & Footpaths by a group of young Engineers, Doctors , Students and senior citizens

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