Monday, 22 January 2018

What does "Mental well being" means to an adolescent?

“There is lot of pressure as to take care of things at home due to not so good financial situation, I feel responsible and want to support my parents. Because of this, I refrain from spending money and many a times I sit alone thinking about it”, says a 15 year old participant on asking about the distress situation.

“Sometimes I am scolded for no good reason in front of many people, or when I am forced to study or when I have fight with a friend, I cry and hide myself from other people. I don’t know whom to talk to!” shares another participant.

Adolescence is a strange phase of life where though the adolescents are expected to behave and act maturely because they are growing up however when they try to do so or take decisions for themselves they are constantly reminded of the fact that they are not old enough! So it’s more like a see-saw resulting in confusion and chaos leaving them more puzzled. And such situations can affect their mental health in many ways. So in order to understand the need for conversations around “Mental health” we conducted a workshop with the adolescents from ‘My Perch’ on the same.

The workshop began with a fun energizer “Boom shake- boom shake” which I recently learned and enjoyed being part of, so the fun smoothly translated here as well! This was followed by screening of short video on “Mental health”. The participants were divided into two groups to do mind mapping around ‘Mental Health’ and “Accha Lagna”

I was sitting with the group of the participants which was invited to share the words, feelings and thoughts that come to their minds when they hear the word “Mental Health”- Initially I could feel the hesitance towards sharing around the word, 3 of them straight off declared that they haven’t heard the word, which obviously to a point was understood- however as one of the girl initiated and then slowly the word was dissected and converted to relatable feelings, the wall of silence was hit hard. So according to the 1st group- Mental health could be positive or negative, including positive feelings and thoughts, excitement, laughing, feeling relaxed, being with oneself, don't feel good when people gossip about others, feeling embarrassed, stress to dress well,  hesitation in talking, stress to make friends, stress to share about oneself to others, stress of saying lies after committing a mistake, Irritation, depression, insult, studies problem, something to do with mind, stress about health, headache, stress of being scolded, doing homework, getting good marks. 

While the other group talked in details about the things that made them happy or what they like doing to make them happy which included- reading Hindi book, when my friends ask me to solve Mathematics question and I'm able to solve it, getting good marks at school, being able to answer question asked by teacher, acting, cheating and not getting caught, singing, working on computers, making new friends etc.

After the detailed mind mapping, what does well-being, mental health and mental illness actually means through the examples were explained. In the next activity, the participants were invited to write down all the situations that are stressful to them, then rate them according to the distress meter and also list as to how do they deal with these situations individually. 

It was an interesting activity because it was probably for first time they would be writing their fears on a paper in a way facing it, unloading it from their heart without the feeling of being judged because this won’t be shared in the large circle and everyone is gonna do it! Few of the situations included- being scolded in front of people, getting beaten, getting low marks, being abused, getting punished for no reason, anxiety of not completing work on time, exam stress, forced to study, fighting, friends not talking , low marks in examination, anxiety of finances at home, being forced to do something they don’t want to do. 

Their most possible reactions or handling the situation involve crying, getting angry, not eating food, confusion; hide themselves behind books and in music. Also in very few situations they have conversations to like really share and solve the problem in front of them. 

It’s also crucial that when an adolescent is in distress situation, they need to have someone to talk to instead of keeping things to their heart and let it affect their mental health. So our next activity involved in searching for the ideal characteristics of the ‘support’ they seek.

“Someone who could understand me. I generally come to the library after school and share anything that I want to with Kamya didi. She listens and understands me. From my face she gets to know that I'm upset and I trust her”

“Someone who is strong, with whom I can share my problems, someone who doesn't make fun of my problems, someone who considers my problems his own to help me, That someone should be a girl, she should speak to me with a smile, shouldn't scold me, she can be like a real sister to me, stay with me whenever I need her and listen me well”

“Someone who knows me well, someone who knows when I get angry, happy and listen to me well and whenever I'm troubled that person can help. For me this person is my mother as she knows me really well and she checks on me when I'm in trouble and helps me resolve problems. I'm also very open to my mother and can share everything with her.

“Someone who listens to me, understands and give me solutions. Can be either boy or girl, shouldn't judge me based on my sharing.

“Someone with whom I can share my worries and can trust.

From this simple yet very essential activity, we could understand that basic quality was trust and not being judgmental and how these basic qualities are absent in the people around them and at the same time emphasizing the need for existence of strong support system for better mental well-being of the adolescents! 

The last part of the workshop was the “Laughter therapy” where through various small steps we all laughed away our worries with a promise of beginning a laughter club in “My Perch”

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