Taking care of young minds

Nilratan Halder | Published: October 11, 2018 21:15:12

How is the country's young population? In a country where about 48 per cent of the total population are young people, the question is even more pertinent when the International Labour Organisation (ILO) reports that 40 per cent of the youths aged between 18 and 24 are not in 'education, employment and training.' The query assumes greater significance for this nation with the World Mental Health Day picking up the theme, 'Young people and mental health in a changing world' for this year's observance of the day.

Already Bangladesh has become a bastion of overwhelmingly asymmetrical distribution of wealth. The majority of the super rich who have found themselves in the $ 30 million (about Tk 250 crore) club over the past six years alone, cannot claim to have earned their money by honest means. Moral turpitude at the family, social and even state or legal levels has been either overlooked or not taken very seriously. Accumulation of wealth had the last laugh over other considerations. Few have cared how young susceptible minds in such a society -even in families enjoying the unearned gains - react to the aberration.

No wonder that the country is struggling with the inroad drug addiction has made into the young population. Of the total population more than 16 per cent adults suffer from mental illness. Younger people aged between five and 10 have such disorders among more than 15 per cent. Together the proportion is very high. If drug addiction is a problem on the one side of the coin, on the other side it is no less frightening a scene with addiction to video gaming. The country is reportedly the third largest market for video games accounting for 10 per cent of the Tk 80 billion ICT market. 

Now why do people in their prime turn to drug and video games? In short they want to escape from something overwhelming and terribly disturbing. They are mentally depressed or do not like the system that asks too much from them. Both types of addiction now make a case for the prevalence of widespread ennui, frustration and mental turbulence they suffer from. They are lonely and cannot share their problem with the near and dear ones. The problem is not with them but with the system that goads them to unhealthy competition. Some may have genetically acquired obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) but when societal care could help them overcome the problem, they are rather treated unwisely.  

Uneven and unjust distribution of wealth together with an environment hostile to development of young minds have already done a great damage to the young generation now facing myriad and stiffer challenges. The allures of a fast spreading consumer society drive many youths mad. When they cannot afford their dream gadgets, they feel frustrated. Others who are given anything they could mention are also spoiled. Adolescence is a period that must be treated with care. In a society running after money, the young ones are most misunderstood because no one is ready to patiently listen to their complaints and arguments. Dismissed off-handed, they feel neglected and dejected and thus want to immerse themselves in something where they feel peace and tranquillity. The saga of addiction either to drugs or video games in most cases thus has almost the same source.

In a highly child-caring society, there are formal arrangements for understanding psychology of each individual child. Children cannot be blamed for developing abhorrence for the existing system of schooling and overriding familial preoccupation with earning money. A proposal made earlier for employment of child psychologists at schools and colleges was quite encouraging but it seems the issue has made hardly any headway. Child-friendly school environment can make a whole lot of difference in the mental make-up of a student. Psychologists can guide parents how to approach the challenges facing them and their children.

Challenges are becoming more daunting because competition has been stiffer for employment and opportunities. If the privileged monopolise those at the expense of the majority, it disrupts social order. Individuals are left traumatised and shell-shocked. This can be anything but a caring society. Young people must have access to sports and games along with their studies. Here the so-called top grade schools are in cities but even those do not have opportunities for giving students enough space for participation in games and sports -let alone cultural activities. But these extra-curricular programmes are the sine qua non for development of a sound mind in a sound body.

What is unacceptable is the lack of awareness of such facilities at the policy level of the education system. The emphasis is on studies alone and only the exceptional among students can excel in sports or games or cultural pursuits. There is need for far greater investment in education. Academic exercise must be balanced by such extra-curricular activities. Not every student will excel in study, some have gifted talents for other missions -some of those even nobler --in life. A sportsman or athlete at the highest level in the world is not only an iconic figure but also has the opportunity of earning enormous sums of money in a short career. So creation of facilities and opportunities for the young population matters and this is how they can be saved from getting derailed on account of mental disorder.


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