QUARANTINED: CHILD PSYCHOLOGY IS FRAGILE
Recreational activities have been on a rise since the beginning of a country wide lockdown and the diversity is beautiful. People have found their interests in various activities like cooking, painting, fitness, reading, DIY home décor and so much more. In a different perspective, an artistic side of every lone individual or family has unveiled and the results are positively promising. These activities have given each one of us a schedule to follow and a retreat from the monotony of life which was draining our souls. But sadly, it has been more than a month since the country is bound in a lockdown and the recreations have now started to go dry.
With passing time, a changed lifestyle which was being enjoyable has evolved into a new monotony of today. People have started feeling a sense of saturation being inside their homes, craving for a change and if they don’t, they might face a huge psychological breakdown sooner or later. Human brain; A bowl of complications, can think nearly 40-50 thoughts per minute which means millions of neurotic signals each hour. This number does not pose a threat due to the diversity of thoughts and free floating imagination of an individual. On a contrary, a restrictive & monotonous schedule has increased the unilateral brain activity leading to fatigue, bad temper, frustration, anxiety and even domestic abuse. In a situation of a pandemic, with less jolly surroundings and consistent terrifying news, the factor of mass hysteria and anxiety are escalating each passing day.
Psychological problems are inevitable to everyone, worse if one belongs to the weaker section of the society, under privileged and the destitute who have no kin. Children; another important section of the society will be seriously affected psychologically and the results will only surface in the long run. Our brain responds positively to social stimulus, meaning, brain health is directly proportional to a healthy social lifestyle. According to a research by Royal College of Psychiatrists, Scotland, since schools and other institutions are the first ones to undergo a strict lockdown, children are stranded at homes without their peers for an uncertain period. This social lapse has created vulnerability in children and there are already reported cases of anxiety, poor diet, OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) and even insomnia. Parents are further burdened while keeping pace with their work-from-home schedule and looking after their young ones.
Interestingly, Mayor of Barcelona, Ada Colau mentions in one of her articles that, “My children are always fighting with each other, and it’s high time that we allow an hourly break each day for children to freshen up.” We cannot deny the fact that in India, screen time was already high for both rural and urban populations, due to the unprecedented increase in the use of social media. Staying back at home, the screen time for children has increased by more than 300% due to the shift in educational curriculum online. This shift has definitely filled the void of absolute shut down of schooling but has its consequences. Online discussions, classes, assignments and submissions have contributed to additional screen time. In the recent past, online classes like Byju, Udemy, UpGrad etc. have also pulled in great attention from both children and adults who are aspiring to access eccentric learning. Children being able to access remote learning are facing problems like eye-sight impairment, obesity, fatigue, both benign and severe headaches. Apart from physiological problems, mental health raises serious threats for students of the age group 7-15 years due to isolation.
Isolation is a threatening situation because our mind loses the ability of correlation, response time slows down, focus weakens, reduces efficiency by more than 40% and leads to long term psychological problems like Insomnia. But the service of conducting online classes is not a privilege to every student due to unavailability of adequate infrastructure in a lot of institutions. The students deprived of the service are therefore facing an immediate situation i.e. Mental tension due to short term incompetence and long term void of resource availability.
Another important issue to address is the quality of education being imparted by the institution and of it being absorbed by the recipient child. Every child has special needs and a physical discourse is important which is virtually not possible for an average class of 30. Some students tend to cheat while preparing their assignments, some students tend to deviate while some simply bunk. In simple terms, a physical class was able to channelize greater focus on a topic while the online system has reduced the engagement by nearly 50%. Also, India is not a widely technologically adept country which makes this system even less efficient and therefore will harness a poorer yield.In the contemporary world, education is really important and should not halt for any reason but the mental and physical health of the child is equally vital. There should be strong resolutions with the help of doctors and psychologists to help reduce these effects. On the other hand, parents should also be well-equipped and aware of such effects because they can maintain a close contact with their children. A locked down country has affected children more than anyone else and we, as responsible parents, mentors and citizens must help them cope up. Rising cases of domestic violence has an equally devastating impact on children’s mental health, they witness an atrocity and are forced to absorb. Sometimes children become a part of domestic abuse, along with the female victim, especially the girl child. Children who grow up living through domestic abuse are prone to carry nervousness, inferiority complex and even PTSDs. Some of these issues can be severely damaging to the personality of an individual during the growing years and ahead. Another afflicting cause of domestic abuse and violence is non-availability of alcohol and drugs (substance abuse) which leads to rushing hyperactivity, challenging and even threatening to people around. Children who face such situations are branded with strong emotions and memories in their sub-conscious. Such children generally turn out as introverts with low self-esteem, lacking confidence and being in a state of absolute delusion. Psychological problems are constantly on a rise but we, as a country have two immediate problems i.e. Acknowledgement of a psychological disorder and Relevant preventive care.
India is still a regressive country with pertaining social pressures and we hesitate to reveal a mental condition. Secondly, if certainly there is an underlying mental condition, we greatly lack institutional and clinical help for such patients. As per a research review of 2015, there are only 852 clinical psychologists in the country and nearly 3000 psychiatrists (Statistical data for mental health workers and organizations across the country is missing). These figures are concerning because there is a greater need of such professionals to provide consultation and medical support. Indian Association of Clinical Psychologists (IACP) is one organization working for mental health alleviation; it also has a helpline for COVID-19 consultation as a pro-bono service for anyone in need. Being in a socially uplifting environment is a key remedy to alleviate mental stress, being close to nature does wonders. Being in a lockdown, the best way to reduce stress and anxiety is staying connected to people immediately around you. It is the best time to make good friends with neighbors, make amends with the ones you rivaled over and keep in constant contact with the people around. It is not necessary to sit around a coffee table; a conversation can happen cross balconies. Maintaining a physical distance but keeping our hearts connected will help reduce the internal pressure and improve our mental health. For children it is difficult to gauge the looming problem but we as adults can help them steer through, but for that, awareness and acknowledgement is necessary. We also need to introspect on our mental health statistics regularly and share it among our peers, if there is an urgent and alarming need, consult a psychologist or a trained psychiatrist. Stay home, Stay safe! This has been a preventive tagline during COVID-19 pandemic but the psychological impacts of being in a state of quarantine are dreadful, let’s help each other sustain