Ballygunge Place: The number of students in psychological distress brought on by the pressure to do well in examinations has increased three-fold in the last five years and eight out of every 10 sufferers are girls, according to a psychiatrist and life coach who regularly counsels young people.
"The mental health of students remains a neglected subject despite more than 40 per cent of children showing some signs of psychological distress. School life has become very taxing for most," Siladitya Ray said on Monday during a talk organised by the South Point Ex-Students' Association at their alma mater.
The root of the problem ostensibly lies in fear of failure. "Students between 16 and 18 years of age have high blood pressure, which was previously unheard of. Many of them might turn diabetic by the time they are 40," Ray said.
He addressed 800-odd students and teachers in three batches, elaborating on the risks to mental health from expectations, unfair comparisons, lifestyle choices and negative incidents. "My parents compare me with others and I have unconsciously become extra competitive," said a boy in Class XII.
The good news is that timely intervention removes psychological distress, Ray said.
The psychiatrist also flagged mobile-phone addiction as one of the factors affecting the well-being of children. He cited a study that found up to 78 per cent of teenagers checking their mobile phones in between phases of sleep. "This addiction (to phones) can damage your brain and weaken your memory, destroy your attention span, make you restless and irritable, disconnect you from reality, change your personality and cause health hazards," he told the students.
Rupa Sanyal Bhattacharjee, principal of South Point School, said awareness was the key to recognising threats. "We have forgone class hours for this talk because we realise the importance of our students' mental health. Many parents complain to us about irritability, lack of concentration and fear of examinations in their kids. They need help and we all need more awareness," she said.
Some students had a one-on-one with Ray after the talk, sharing their trust issues and depression triggers.