A helpline that reaches out to ‘stressed’ students

The recent spurt of suicides by students in the state is a matter of great concern for everyone. It simply points to something being drastically wrong in the society wherein we live. It points towards a big communication gap between teachers, parents and students. It shows up the hidden pressure and stress the students are carrying all the while like dynamite strapped to our body. Read more

It brings to the surface a maniac depression and desperation that is seething within the young of today. Part of a number race they have been forced into a system that forces them to compete all the time for survival. It results in a total burnout. It forces dynamic, powerful youth to be reduced into a helpless, non-entity. It makes him believe that if he is not a topper he has no right to live. It makes him feel guilty, useless and unwanted. The emotional baggage is so heavy that he succumbs loses all interest in life and the world and takes the extreme step of committing suicide.

"This suicidal trend among the youth distressed us too. We, like many adults felt the need to reach out, to talk, to analyze, and to counsel such students. What was born out of this concern was a helpline aptly named All is well", said Mr. Anshumali Sharma of Childline Helpline Lucknow. A Reader and Head, Geology, J N P G College Mr. Sharma’s work in Childline, a Government of India Project under the Ministry of Child and Women Development that works for abandoned children in 83 UP cities decided to expand the work base and include counseling of stressed students during the time of emotional crisis, especially during examination.

To help such students and to help them stop taking this extreme step some like minded NGOs -namely Human Unity Movement (HUM), Circle for Child and Youth Research Cooperation in India (CCYRCI) joined Childline Helpline Lucknow and started a 24x7 helpline service on toll free number 1098, 9415023121, 9415408590 and 9415189200.

Mr Sharma gave this information while addressing journalists at ‘Media for Children’-the fortnightly media sensitization session organized by Media Nest and UNICEF at the Uttar Pradesh Press Club.

He stressed that if a child gets to talk to someone just five minutes before he decides to take the extreme step of taking his life chances are that he will see sense and will change his mind and not commit suicide.

"All is well is all about reassuring a student a positive approach towards life," said Mr Sharma.
He said that they have discovered during their research and interaction with stressed students that it is over ambitious parents and insensitive teachers who are generally responsible for a child committing suicide. Mr Sharma said we must not make our children the vehicle of our own unfulfilled dreams and ambition.

"As parents we must analyze the caliber of our child and also study his area of interest. We must communicate to him that we respect his individuality and that we will not be disappointed if he does not excel in academics," said Dr Sharma. He thanked the media, specially the Lucknow media for being highly child-sensitive and for raising children’s issues in a big way. He said it will have to be a combination of responsible media, parents and teachers that will help reduce the negativeness from the mind of the youngsters.

Speaking on the issue the second panelist, renowned sociologist, Vice-Principal of JNPG College, Lucknow and Executive Secretary of Circle for Child and Youth Research Cooperation in India (CCYRCI). Dr Vinod Chandra, said that post-examination suicides by students is a new and greatly disturbing phenomenon. Earlier suicidal bids were sometime made by students who failed in examinations but now students are ending their lives even before the results are declared.

He suggested counseling sessions for not just students but also for teachers and parents. Dr Chandra suggested that there should be a Parent-teacher counselling association in every school.

Blaming the elitist schools for starting the ‘number game’ Dr Chandra said that there must be debates and discussions on our education system which will lead to a more student-friendly system where there will be healthy competition.

He suggested that parents of today despite their busy schedules must ensure that they spend quality time with their wards. This will instill a lot of confidence in their child and help build an emotional stable individual.

"We have since we launched the helpline already counseled 350 students online. There are days when we are receiving calls till wee hours of the morning. We get calls from oversees too," said Dr Sangita Sharma of HUM. HUM is a child centric organization basically devoted to the cause of child protection and child rights. A former school teacher, Dr Sharma, who was a panelist on the same programme stressed on a healthy relationship between the teacher and the taught.

Elaborating on the telephone calls that ‘all is well’ has been receiving, Dr Sharma said the basic thing she found was a lack of understanding between a child and the parent.

“There was this boy who called to say that he had scorned 90 per cent in all subjects but only 76 per cent in English and that his parents have been livid with him for this. The boy between sobs told me that now he has lost the will and the confidence to study and is petrified of the final exams. Do you blame the child or the parent,” she asked.

Stressing that it is not always the children who learn from teacher but vice versa Dr Sharma said that a child is a precious gift of God and He has sent him on earth with a special talent and we adults must respect this uniqueness embedded in each child.

Kulsum Mustafa
(The author is a senior journalist and secretary of Media Nest)

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