The mental health scenario in the country was already worsening and then came the COVID-19 pandemic. Even though the pandemic is still here, the first two waves of it and then the subsequent lockdown have turned the situation even graver, affecting all age groups, especially teens. While the problem is there, the same sans acknowledgment on the larger scale of being a problem which results in the lack of measures with the situation spiralling out of control.
This is what apparently is in play in the Southern state of Tamil Nadu where, in the last 2 weeks, nearly 5 students, all teens, have died by allegedly committing suicide and if numbers are to be believed, then according to the National Crime Records Bureau’s (NCRB) 2020 report, one student dies by suicide every 42 minutes in the country and the state of Tamil Nadu is among the six states in India with the highest number of student suicide cases being reported.
There is no denying the fact that the pandemic ended up changing the outlook of the day-to-day affairs in society and the education sector was no exception. Coupled with several other factors, the teens that are growing up—their body shaping up and their mental strength gaining roots—found themselves caught in the middle of the crisis where they had to be strong and ensure that they perform as well. It is when this balance faces a sudden tension that the teens are left with no option but to end their lives. It is clear that the mental health problems—in any age group—have got no takers in the country even as there is no dearth of mental health infrastructure, but there has been a failure on part of the authorities in ensuring proper and effective utilization of the same especially during the start of the pandemic and after that.
At the same time, there is a need to understand that post lockdown when the schools reopened after a long gap, there were no changes made on the ground, rather, the schooling was done as was the routine earlier, however, it was forgotten that the children who are returning to schools have had an intrinsic, invisible change and if those changes are not acknowledged and they are forced to maneuver, they will fall apart. That’s what happened: in kids, it brought behavioral changes and in teens, when the pressure mounted, they went ahead to the extreme.
There is a need for accepting the fact that somewhere deep inside, the mental health issues, which were invigorated due to the pandemic, have taken the shape of a crisis that can still be managed—if there is a will of setting things right—and should be managed because there is no way out. Society as a whole needs to become more vibrant, it needs to know how to identify anyone, especially teens, struggling with mental health issues; it needs to know how to handle the same. More importantly, there is a need for going easy on kids because life is not all about competition and people cannot expect miracles from their kids. They are humans in end—FOR GOD’S SAKE.