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Mental health issues common among school kids, say experts

“Depression, anxiety and loneliness are all major problems faced by school students. Because of online classes, many have difficulty concentrating, and also memorising their studies,” points out D Kavithakshini, a consultant psychologist with a private medical college in the city.

CHENNAI: Ever since the pandemic struck us, mental health support has become a necessity, especially for school children. Though they’re well versed with browsing the internet for their regular activities, many are plagued by loneliness and depression, teachers say.

According to a UNICEF survey, 1 out of 7 youngsters in 15-24 age group is facing some form of mental health issues – depression, anxiety, insecurities, unruly behaviour and suicidal tendencies.

During the lockdown, school students were shifted from to online classes where they were bombarded with a lot of work without any physical interaction with their classmates. Sitting for long hours in front of a computer has affected their attention-span and led to several behavioural problems.

The importance of sharing a physical classroom with other classmates, the banality of everyday interactions and enjoying games and repartees with teachers cannot be dismissed. Children develop emotional quotient and learn the basics of social etiquette and discipline in school under the watchful eye of teachers. But at home, online classes are a poor substitute. Besides, parents cannot keep vigilant throughout the day.

“Depression, anxiety and loneliness are all major problems faced by school students. Because of online classes, many have difficulty concentrating, and also memorising their studies,” points out D Kavithakshini, a consultant psychologist with a private medical college in the city.

Normally, a student can concentrate for 30-60 minutes with a 5-15 minute break. But in online mode, students are made to sit in front of the screen for over 8 hours. “Even after class is over, they do homework online again,” she added.

In online classes, many students did not pay attention to anything their teachers said, as they couldn’t focus. “So, my classmates and I learnt everything from YouTube later. But now, with physical classes, we’re unable to answer properly because online, it was just short answers and not detailed explanation. It’s tough to memorise. Nonetheless, we’ve become comfortable with online classes at home. The only fun thing about school is sitting next to friends,” says Swedha, a school student.

Psychologists say that online gaming addiction is another major issue that affects students’ mental health. “Battle games have made them believe that fighting is the only way to get what we want. It changed their behaviour and made them more aggressive. This reflects in the form of unruly behaviour when they came to school. Parents and teachers are encountering more conflict while dealing with school kids now,” points out Vandana, consultant psychologist of V-Cope.

Inter-personal communication is crucial for maintaining sanity. For teachers, it goes a step further and enables them to pick up on facial queues and physical gestures of their students to understand what they want. “Interactions with all students in a physical classroom was a given before the pandemic. Especially among the shy quiet ones, we could read their faces clearly and concentrate on them according to their capacity. But in online class, we couldn’t see everyone’s faces. It was hard to even hear them speak clearly. Without knowing them, providing any knowledge will result in nothing,” says Kamatchi, a teacher in a private school, Taramani. “Lack of peer-to-peer mentoring was also a major drawback of online classes, as students couldn’t express their thoughts and opinions to someone of their own age.”

(with inputs from Keerthana Lakshmi)

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Battle games have made them believe that fighting is the only way to get what we want. It has made them more aggressive, and reflects in the form of unruly behaviour in school

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— Vandana, consultant psychologist of V-Cope

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