Stress is not only in evidence when a child commits suicide. Every now and then we read in the news about children committing suicide for various reasons. Be it failure in exams or reluctance to return to one’s hostel, the reasons reflect a host of stress producing situations that the children get enveloped in. There is no one reason for this intense suffocation and suffering. It could be the inability to conform to the new standards set by parents and teachers, constant ridicule and humiliation, bullying by older students especially in hostels, non adjustment to the school and hostel environnement, unhappy families, lack of warm, open and friendly communication between parents and children, or deprivation of parental love and attention.
These stress factors claw their way insidiously into the minds of children resulting in a range of psychological and emotional disorders. The gravity of the situation increases when the child is unable to express his or her problem, is not allowed to express the problem or is unable to find a solution, while at the same time not being able to live with or adjust to the problem. This results in the problem getting magnified or multiplied leading at times to the stress victims taking extreme steps.
The irony is that although such extreme incidents hit our thought provoking chords suddenly sounding a red alert, most of the time we remain ignorant of the many stress disorders that young children keep suffering from. In fact these disorders are often mistakenly accepted as part of growing up. We ought to be sensitive in all circumstances to the silent cries of children.
Studies have proved that stress factors depending upon their nature and intensity, lead to altered bodily reactions and behavioural patterns, to varying degrees, differing from child to child :
* Tension, headaches, pain in the shoulder, neck and back;
* Lack of appetite, dry mouth, stomach ache, acidity, vomiting, diarrhoea or constipation and dental caries;
* Frequent occurrences of cold and cough and aggravation of asthma;
* Lack of vocabulary even when adequate expression is possible, inarticulateness and stuttering;
* Decrease in memory, concentration, complex learning performances and decrease in the ability to organise work;
* Skin problems such as pimples;
* Eye problems;
* Falling hair;
* Trembling and perspiration;
* Deviations in normal behaviour, unsociability, sucking of thumb at an older age, irritability, stubbornness, lowered self esteem, sudden outbursts of anger and jealousy. In certain cases, the effects can lead to depression or violence and antisocial behaviour, criminal tendencies, suicidal tendencies and character disorders;
* Improper conditioning by key figures early in life can produce changes in the body and mind that can manifest later in life.
Some responses fade away when the child is removed from the stress situations; nevertheless, some disorders get embedded as permanent footprints too.
Children are the mirrors and hope of future. Their health and personality would determine our nation’s future and this responsibility has to be shared by everyone in the society – parents, families, teachers, schools, administrators and politicians. If a stitch in time saves nine, then it’s time we wake up to the quiet cries of anguish of our young buds and prevent them from being strangulated.