Since childhood, girls and boys have been taught about how they should behave in public settings and how their body language should be. While, on the one hand, boys are often told that they should not cry, girls are often conceived to be sensitive, emotional and weak.
Moreover, in Asian countries, girls and women in the families are not allowed to express their opinions and voice for change. Thus, the psychological well-being of the feminine gender has often been compromised at the hands of social customs and traditions. A study by STEER Education found that girls' mental health is "at a precipice", with tens of thousands now hiding signs of deep distress from their teachers and parents.
The UK-based study also raises similar concerns in Asian and South-Asian households where many girls drop out of schools and sacrifice their education due to the lack of basic amenities. The study revealed that girls aged 11 years were now 30 per cent more likely to suffer from poor mental health than boys of the same age. By the time girls reach 18 years, they were now more than twice as likely to experience poor mental health as boys of the same period. Moreover, the pandemic has affected girls' mental health in a more adverse manner than the boys.
Girls Now 33% More Likely To Have Mental Health Issues
Girls were now 33 per cent more likely to incur mental health issues than the same age in the pre-pandemic era. Compared to 2018, both boys and girls are now 40% less trusting of others, 25% less likely to take risks and 25% less able to choose an appropriate and measured response to life's everyday challenges. Women and girls in India are attempting suicide at an alarming rate.A study published by the Lancet Public Health revealed that Indian women contributed over 36 per cent to the global female suicide deaths, despite comprising merely 18 per cent of the worldwide population.
The Global Health Data Exchange provides a database that can track worldwide health trends and demographics. According to the database, India has the highest suicide rate among young and middle-aged women for countries with similar socio-demographics. After independence, India has shown significant progress in women's inclusion and gender inequality. Therefore, as women became more educated and empowered in the country, arranged marriages declined significantly. However, in several sections, women still possess a lower status and suffer from a lack of opportunity.
Vikram Patel, a professor of Global Health at Harvard University, said, "Deaths that occur due to suicide are also a product of the method used". In the West, while women attempt more suicides, men use more lethal methods, thus resulting in more deaths. On the other hand, in India, both men and women use fatal methods. Suicide death rates in India are amongst the highest in the world. A large proportion of suicides occur at younger ages, especially in women. Much of Indian suicides may be avoidable, starting with controlling access to pesticides.
India Has One of The Highest Suicide Rates In The World
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that nearly 9,00,000 people worldwide die from suicide every year, including about 2,00,000 in China, about 1,70,000 in India, and 1,40,000 in high-income countries. India relies heavily on the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) for data regarding suicides, which is heavily under-reported. Puberty occurs to girls earlier than it occurs to boys. Therefore, girls become conscious of their body language and appearance earlier than boys experience the biological changes.
Moreover, adolescents in the 21st century have to keep up with the fast-changing digital world, coupled with social media, which further adds to the pressure. In recent times, mental health has become one of the most often discussed topics in public gatherings, seminars and workshops. The National Mental Health Survey, 2015-16, shows that 9.8 million teenagers aged 13-17 years suffer from depression and other mental health ailments and are "in need of active intervention".
The pressure of fulfilling heightened expectations, the inability to question various gender stereotypes, no means for dialogue or discussion surrounding health, and the lack of access to qualified and friendly therapists or counsellors are some of the few causes of the declining mental health amongst young girls and women. One of the most common discussions that come up while looking at the mental health conditions of youngsters is looking into the 'why' of the problem. Like any other physical illness, mental health conditions need not always have a designated root cause.
Causes Of Mental Health Disorders Amongst Adolescents
Childhood trauma, excessive pressure to be the best, peer pressure, being a victim of bullying, body shaming and not belonging to a financially secure background are the most common examples of trigger points for several adolescents. Mental health issues amongst the youth are catastrophic as they make the youngsters vulnerable to substance abuse and alcoholism.
Since times are changing and both parents are working, they lose out on what their children see and do on the internet. Therefore, the need of the hour involves a collective effort from teachers and the parents to involve themselves in children's lives and know what is happening. Moreover, adults need to understand that with changing times, the emotional needs of the children are also changing. Therefore, approaching children in a friendly manner and entrusting responsibilities on their shoulders might help them improve their self-worth and increase their self-confidence.
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