IS IT a reflection of the society we live in, or a sign of the times? In the capital alone, on an average, at least 6,000 children and youngsters belonging to both lower and upper economic strata take recourse to psychiatric help every month. In addition, the number of children going in for counseling in elite schools is increasing by the day.
“We get around six children every day for counseling,” said Mr. S P Bakshi, Principal, Modern School (MS). “Daily, we get two to three children,” said Mr. K K Mohindroo, Principal, and Air Force Bal Bharti (BB) School.
Mrs. Vibha Parthasarathy, Principal, Sardar Patel Vidyalaya (SPV), said atleast six of her students sought counseling daily. On the other hand, Delhi Public School (R K Puram) Principal Shayama Chona conceded ” that the number of such students has gone up tremendously”.
While counseling per se may not necessarily reflect any mental disorder, the fact remains that a high percentage of those who come for help in various elite schools are, in all probability, products of maladjustment. While Mr. Bakshi attributes the problem to the “materialistic nouveau riche class” some students hail from, Mrs. Parthasarathy feels that their problems can be traced to “a society undergoing major changes with little time to react and cope”. In Ms Chrona’s view, these problems stemmed from “a child’s failure to co-ordinate between his home, school and the community”.
All the three educationist agreed that the problems faced by youngsters could be traced to the rapid changes in society and the inability of the children and the parents to cope with the pressures. Many other factors like increasing competition, incompatibility between parents, satellite revolution, and parents spending very little time with their children, contribute to the increasing deviants and criminals.
The principals maintained that the increase in the number of children seeking counseling or psychiatric help did not mean, “Indian society is becoming decadent”. On the other hand, they felt that the trend indicated that our society was gradually accepting that taking recourse to such methods was not embarrassing. “The stigma attached to counseling is slowly fading. Nowadays, many parents seek appointments with school counselors,” said Mrs. Parthasarathy.
Consequently, almost all the leading schools in Delhi have appointed either full-time or part-time counselors, exclusively for students. Modern School has two full-time counselors while SPV has three. Delhi Public School (R K Puram) has four counselors and Bal Bharati one. These counselors act as a buffer between the students and their parents.
The number of those seeking psychiatric help outside school has also shown a steep increase. “I treat approximately 30 children and youngsters form 20 percent of my parents,” said Dr Sanjay Chug, a leading psychiatric in South Delhi.
The same is the case with almost all other 120-psychiatrist handles 25 cases a month, the number of cases that private psychiatrists handle in the period crosses the 3,000 mark.
The scenario in Government hospitals is worse. While Dr Chug’s patients come from an elitist background, the increasing number of children and teenager patients from the not-so-well-off families worries Dr Neena Bohra, Head of the Department of psychiatry, Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital. “Since I work for a Government hospital, I get patients from the working class or the lower class.
There has, indeed, been a very big increase in the number of children and teenagers being referred to me. During the last decade, I feel the number of young patients has increased four times.”
The problems that children face in the middle and lower middle class families are somewhat different. “Lifestyles differ. Therefore, problems differ. But not always,” explained Dr Bohra.
Children and youngsters from the lower strata are taken to the psychiatric at a very late stage, as they do not have access to counselors or understanding teachers. “These children are brought to me only when the disease manifests in one form or the other”, she said.
The problem is compounded by a shortage of psychiatrists in India, the total number being not more than 1,200. Besides, there is a conflict between a rapidly changing society and conservative parents.
By Ketan Tanna