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Mental Health Over Marks: Normalise ‘Not Getting’ Good Marks

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Many people say knowledge is more important than marks, then why judge a student by the marks he scores? We all know students who study hard but don’t get the marks they deserve. It’s okay. But the real question is whether the students are free from stress? No, especially with the lockdown making the situation worse, students are stressed.

But the real question is that with the increasing cases of Covid-19, there is news doing rounds that schools will open soon. Imagine a child getting Covid-19 and losing one academic year. We live in a country where to get into a medical college, you have to have good marks in NEET.  But, I have seen many children of the rich who barely pass NEET and still study in top colleges.

Mental Health Of Students: Board Stress
Students who die by suicide are not to be blamed, imagine you work day and night only to get cut off marks for you to achieve your dream/Representational image.

When I was in 10th, my classmate who used to bunk around and simply party all the time got the highest marks; and she would tell me, “See, I didn’t even study like you, and yet, I am the topper”. Then some people call you just to ask your marks. If you have a cousin in the same class, then you are done for; the comparison, the jealously is all so flimsy. Getting 95 % doesn’t make your child Isaac Newton.

If all toppers were Newton, then trust me India would have been ruling the world. I have many friends who taunt me and say, “you studied so hard, you were good in seminars, one of the top orators of the school, topper of the class and know it all but still did not top boards”. To them, my answer is, a piece of paper can’t define who I am. Marks don’t define you.

Michael Faraday didn’t even complete matriculate but had a passion for knowledge and today, he is a great person. But the saddest part is that these very marks lead to depression, stress, suicidal thoughts, etc. And those who can’t bear it die by suicide. I think mental health is important because untreated mental stress leads to suicide. Mental health is important and the government should initiate means for students to deal with it, head-on, it in every educational institution.

More stressed are the children who come from the middle class and poor families, as since childhood, all they hear is their parents asking them to study well and get good marks. It’s difficult for them to pay the high price of college fees. Whenever results come out, there will be a comparison as to who got the highest marks among cousins. There’s always pressure to score more than said elder cousin next time.

I know many who are talented, worked hard, and did not get good marks and their dreams got shattered. Please normalize not getting good marks. Students who die by suicide are not to be blamed, imagine you work day and night only to get cut off marks for you to achieve your dream. They cancel their social media consumption, stay away from distractions, and yet don’t get cut off marks.

There is only one option left: to choose the career that your family can afford to pay the fees. This lockdown has witnessed a lot many student suicides. The reason may be silly to us but what can a child do when he doesn’t get access to education when its the only way he can escape poverty? Every hour, one student commits suicide in India. India has one of the highest suicide rates in the world with most being people age 18 – 29.

Our society compares the marks of the students, some relatives who don’t even know you will text you to know marks. The government sure has to take a series of steps to curb it, but here’s what we can do from our end

  • Every child is unique. Stop comparing children and always support them if they seem anxious, depressed, or at unrest with you. Ask them if they won’t help.
  • One of the main reasons for suicide is poverty. Because of the low marks, they believe that they can’t achieve their goals. There should a decrease in fees of all educational institutions which is applicable for one community but all. Our educational institutions have to be more inclusive and accommodative.

We all may come across this situation in life. Board exams are one of the difficult things because everyone’s eyes are always on your marks. For all those who didn’t get good marks, work hard and remember one thing God has his plan for each of us so just trust him. Getting suicidal thoughts, depression, pressure, pain during exams is common but we have to be brave in their face and try to persevere and be virtuous. Stay focused.

To all those who failed, a forest burnt in forest fire rebuilds itself, why can’t you? Let’s try and put a stop to this suicide chain. We need to pay attention to mental health. #MentalHealthForStudents #TowardsZeroStudent-SuicideRate

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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