I teach grade 9 Science and Maths. Today after my class one of my co teachers asked me to take one kid out of the class and talk to her as she has done something to her arm. When I went out I realised that the kid had cut herself using a pencil-sharpeners blade. As soon as I saw her arm my mind went blank and then it rebooted as I looked for my small first aid kit in my bag.
It was so scary to imagine that a child of 14-15 years was ready to self harm. I talked to the child before taking her to the Principal’s office because she was so panic stricken that someone will tell her parents that she was threatening to cut herself more if I inform anyone, especially her mother. Somehow we calmed the child by reassuring her that things will be fine and no one will scold her and went to the Principal.
After the mother left with the class teacher I went back to my class and talked about mental health, a general discussion about how seeking help is not weakness and how we should do it if we feel that we are unable to cope with things. I talked for some 15 minutes sharing my experience and the kids listened, wide eyed, attentive, grabbing onto every word. After 5 minutes I opened up the class for discussion. And that’s when chaos broke.
I expected some kids to have anxiety and have issues, but I did not expect more than half my class breaking down. 5-6 kids started crying as I was speaking, others shared their anxiety issues and my heart broke seeing them so lost. They were so lost and unaware about so many things. There were many who have cut their hands earlier as an outlet for the pain, many who feel very lonely and frustration, many who feel alone.
The pandemic has been hard for everyone but the upcoming teens, especially teens coming from underprivileged households have more layers to their misery. They have no privacy and restrictions have increased especially for girls as their parents refused to let them out of sight. Parents are a big issue as they have become more rigid with their thoughts which affect these teens who just want freedom and more choices, which sadly they have to fight for, even in their homes.
I have come across many stories of struggle today, ranging from having no friends, bullying, heartbreaks, discrimination, loneliness. The world is changing, the world is advancing, and so are the troubles. Because these evils of loneliness, anxiety are so deep, sneaky at times that we don’t even know of their existence till the time they have become big issues. I hope we live to see a day where there is enough awareness about these issues that we don’t have to wait for an incidence or our peak breaking point to start talking about our mental health.