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With at least 66 children ending their lives in the southern state of Kerala since the time the lockdown was imposed in March, the state government is staring at a new set of challenges amid the coronavirus pandemic.
According to reports, the youngsters are having tough times coping with extraordinary circumstances where they are forced to stay home, schools are shut and they are unable to reach out to friends to share their woes.
India Today reported Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan taking into account the loss of lives during the COVID-19 lockdown and stated that there has been an increasing instance of suicidal tendencies among the children in the state due to several reasons.
Issues as trivial as parents scolding children over mobile phone use or failure to attend online classes get magnified and end up taking a toll on mental health.
To efficiently manage the rising challenges, the Kerala government has launched a teleconsultation facility to guide the children facing stress and more importantly to educate and caution parents against hurting their children's sentiments.
Reportedly, a study has also been ordered to understand the aspects of the challenges and to devise strategies to overcome these.
"Among the children an increasing instance of suicidal tendency is being witnessed which will become an extremely serious social issue. Since March 25, when the national lockdown was imposed, 66 children, below 18 years of age, have ended their lives due to various reasons", CM Vijayan said.
According to the Chief Minister, a mother scolding her child for not attending the ongoing online classes, or a parent questioning a child for downloading a sleazy video on the smartphone or the constant rift between the parents were among the reasons triggering suicidal tendencies.
So to proactively tackle the concern and to help the children facing issues relating to mental pressures, 'Chiri'atele-counselling initiative has been started by the government.
The counselling initiative has been started under Our Responsibility to Children Programme (ORC) which is a planned community intervention that connects with people between the age of 12-18 years.
The state health department has also launched "Ottakalla Oppamundu" (You are not alone, we are with you) programme to help children facing mental distress issues and to prevent the suicidal tendencies among them.
Health Minister KK Shailaja said that under the psychosocial support assistance, her department has so far reached out to 68,814 children and 10,890 children have been given counselling.
She also appealed that behavioural changes in the children should be noted by the family members and if they find something amiss, they should seek help from the district psychosocial help desk.
Reportedly, a 15-member team of Students Police Cadets will also be constituted in each of the 14 districts to help the children needing any assistance.
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