By Deblina Das:
Mental health is a very broad concept and it encompasses a wide variety of aspects. However, I have particularly been a little concerned about the condition of child and adolescent mental health lately. Over the years too, it has shown little or no interest and improvement whatsoever.
Before anything, let’s understand what child mental health actually means. And for that, it’s even more important to step into the realms of a child’s world. It is that moment of genuine cheer, that moment of absolute wonder of understanding the funny world around, the innocence, the mindlessness, that quest for knowing every aspect of everything, emulating the immediate caregivers, the wanting, the seeking, that derivation of the purest form of joy from the most trivial of things and most of all, the longing for unconditional love and support.
Reality check: Is every child getting the optimal level of child support and care that is required ? Unfortunately, no.
It is common knowledge that early childhood developments color the later adjustments in life. It therefore goes without saying that the issue of neglected child care and mental health services is a serious matter of concern, not just in terms of growing rates of mental and health care problems, but also in terms of the essential human development of the nation.
World Health Organisation (WHO) has defined mental health as “a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.”
Can complete emotional satisfaction ever be achieved? Of course, not.
Should we stop working and caring for oneself and others, then? Hell, no.
Now, while ‘maintaining a balanced life‘ and ‘ensuring a positive economic development‘ (w.r.t. Human Resources and Development) are always being talked of in different contexts — Why is there such a meagre availability of resources for promotion of mental health care and development? Why has the pattern in the basic provisions of child and women care facilities to the lower-income and poverty-stricken families of this nation, been faltering? Why is the child being neglected in a nation comprising of almost 160 million (as per the Census) children under the age of 6?
In the nooks and corners of this country, there are these tender souls unkempt, unheard of, bound by the shackles of abject poverty and hopeless circumstances — most of them deliberately exposed to harsh conditions as that of domestic violence, sexual abuse, physical punishment, coercive parent-child interaction and not to forget, child labour & other forms of slavery.
On the other hand, there are also children belonging to well-off families, with both parents working outside home thereby leaving them with little or no time for their young ones. This, in turn, has made them oblivious to the child’s simplest of emotional needs — that of parental proximity and care. The only and most astonishing point of similarity here , is neglect.
Then again, how far can materialistic needs provide stability in life if the mind itself isn’t satisfied?
National consciousness has to be raised about the quality in child care programmes. At present, there are large scale programmes working towards larger outreach with Â meager resources leading to more wastage rather than proper provisions. Academicians, field practitioners, government and parents are the important stakeholders who will have to be involved in defining quality and strategies for quality child care programmes. There is a need to have a regulatory framework which will help to ‘standardize’ programmes of non-governmental, governmental and private sector. Though regulation is not the only answer to quality programme but it will help in quality assurance at least. More than that, families of children all around need to be made aware, counselled, trained and given minimum support — be it monetary or psychological.
The Government of India says that the ‘Children of today are the future of tomorrow’. If it is so, then this country really needs to wake up and see the light of day, the light here, being the young gems of our very own young nation, which is said to be “paving its way towards great heights and boundaries”.
Happiness and well-being is obviously a self-construed term, subject to way too many interpretations. But in a child’s world, it is perhaps the only necessity apart from physiological needs.
Care is the need of the hour. It will only happen if you find the child in you.
I care. Do you?
Robert Brault wrote – “There are days when you’d just like to enter the world of a child’s imagination and never come back.”
Let us all find that day. Maybe, just about now.