14th October, 2020. Live Twitter Chat with Dextrus Workspace. Dextrus is a workspace with the single focus of creating the right work environment to enable you to be the best at what you do.
Q1. How do you approach counselling/Therapy for Kids?
A1. I begin the process of counselling by telling the child that I am here to help them express their emotions and tell me what is affecting them. It is essential to gain a child’s trust. The child should feel comfortable. Therapy involves activities and sharing of ideas that help the child face their emotional turmoil. Play therapy along with worksheets and conversations. Play Therapy is also effective for children with special needs. It works very well with children under 14 years.As Plato said, you can discover more about a person in an hour of play than a year of conversation. It is essential for me to connect with the child and provide a safe environment.
Q2. “Mental health problems do not happen to children; it’s just a mood, they will grow out of it”, how often do you face such myths?
A2. Yes, most often, the mental health of a child is not taken seriously by the people around him/her. As statistics show, about 10% of children are affected by mental health problems. This includes behavioural issues, stress, and anxiety.
I remember a child’s parent having unrealistic academic expectations from him, which had made the child go into a cocoon. He had stopped having any interaction. The parents ignored it for two and a half years thinking it is ‘just a phase.’ Also, seeking professional help is largely stigmatized in our country. I still have parents telling me that they do not think their child is ‘mad’ to see a therapist.
Q3. What is your advice to parents facing mental health concerns, their own or of their kids?
A3. Parents need to look out for warning signs, whether their own or of their kids. Warning signs such as talking about hurting oneself or hurting others, staying aloof, mood swings, withdrawal from social interactions, being sad for a long time and substance abuse, etc. For children, it includes falling grades or lack of interest in the activities they enjoyed earlier. It is essential to understand that mental illness can begin at any age. Parents need to accept that they or their child has a mental health problem.
Q4. How can the mental health of guardians/parents impact that of the children? How often are parents aware of this impact?
A4. Mental Health of a guardian/parent can hugely impact the child. Children can feel anxious and depressed if their parents are overly critical of their behaviour & actions. There is an increase in the number of adults seeking therapy & many of them are child caregivers. According to a research, children are by nature egocentric. This means that a child views and interprets the world from their perspective. A parent’s mental health illness can lead to the child feeling guilt, rejection, instability, and uncertainty.Most often, parents are unaware of the impact of their mental health on their children. If at all they do realize, the damage is already done.
Q. 5 What is the importance of adding mental health modules in school curriculums?
A5. Good question. Being a counselling psychologist and a curriculum developer myself, I feel that mental health education should be mandatory in the school curriculum. Mental Health support at school can impact the child positively. The school should discuss and recognize the warning signs that I mentioned earlier. Children spend most of their time at school. The school should create a safe environment. The curriculum should have modules discussing empathy, resilience, mental health illnesses, empowerment, etc. This will help in gradually ending the stigma attached to mental health. Mental Health awareness needs to be learnt early in life.
Q6. As adults, we spend most of our time at the workplace, which has its toll. How can our mental wellbeing at work impact our mental wellbeing at home? Can you share some examples?
A6. Adults spend most of their time at work. Work pressure, deadlines, bringing work home can affect the dynamics of a healthy home environment. Example – A parent would spend only the weekend with her daughter. The parents would take her to the mall every weekend. There was hardly an emotional connect with the child. During therapy, I found out that the child was struggling with loneliness and anxiety. With both the parents working, the child could only interact with them on weekends.Another example is where the parents had unrealistic academic expectations from their child, the kid could not bear the constant pressure and tried to run away from home. It was only after a year of such consistent attempts; they tried to seek professional help.Parents need to prioritize their time with the child. Prioritizing is becoming increasingly difficult due to the pandemic with the children attending classes at home and parents working from home. Time management is crucial. Parents need to follow a schedule which lets them focus on their child’s needs and also be good role models while inculcating discipline.
Bonus Question: Can you shed some light on how accessible is mental health therapy for families in India?
Answer – Excellent question. I am glad I am getting to answer this. Do you know what is the mental health workforce in India?
According to a WHO report, mental health workforce in India (per 100,000 population) includes psychiatrists (0.3) and psychologists (0.07) Mental Health is a social justice issue. We must consider making mental health easily accessible and affordable. Our health insurance should also cover mental health. Some professionals work pro bono on some instances and even offer discounted sessions.Some organizations offer free or discounted therapy, especially to students. However, the stigma attached to mental health is still prevalent. People need to be sensitized about it. It is as simple as visiting your general physician for a cough or cold.A therapist undergoes extensive training to understand how the mind works. Each mind is different. I have been told by some people that they would rather indulge in shopping or food than take care of their mental health. It is not just accessibility but also the importance one gives to it. Therapy is now accessible through the phone, text, online, but people are still sceptical about it. A lot of times, people think therapy is just ‘talking’.There should be regular discussions and awareness.
We only discuss mental health when it makes it to the news!