Do our youth dare to dream?
(August 12 is Intertiol Youth Day)
By Kishor Kumar Kalita, Mukut Lochan Kalita
In the midst of the advertisement war in Delhi between the Aam Aadmi Party state government and NDA government at the Centre, last week the Delhi High Court ordered removal of all the aggressive self-praise of the Kejriwal government. Next morning, it was replaced by a photo of late Dr APJ Abdul Kalam along with his famous quote: “Dreams are not what you see when asleep, but is what doesn’t let you sleep!” It is the latter type of dream that energizes people to achieve which is apparently uchievable, justifying the idealism of those who possess them. Yet this ability isn’t exactly universal. Constrained by many factors, “dreams” ultimately are prerogative of a select few. Youths, in all civilizations, are considered to be the ones having the urge, ability and right to dream. But what about us? Let us consider a few incidents from the time when we were youths (technically from our teege to around 25 years).
On 18th April, 1983, the students of a college in western Assam witnessed a ghastly incident. In broad daylight and next to a busy market, a youth was hacked to death by a violent mob. The crime of the youth? He was member of a leftist student organization.
About a decade later. The scene this time was Guwahati, the capital city of the State. In front of a school in the middle of the city around noon, one man in his late thirties was there to pick up his son. He was fired upon indiscrimitely with automatic weapons by assassins in front of hundreds of children of the school and his bloody end came immediately. Parag Das’ crime was that he was an honest and bold jourlist!
Those two incidents are not untypical of the milieu for those who were born in the Seventies and were either child or youth during the subsequent decades. Those were the decades of turmoil, where for many the objective was to survive somehow till the next day. In an atmosphere of fear, the dreams — both individual and social — were shattered for many.
An American university in collaboration with Gauhati University is taking up a project to study how such an atmosphere impacts the thought patterns those children who had first hand experienced the trauma of seeing such violence. However, in those uncertain decades, most of the Assamese youths had to experience all kinds of violence, conflicts and terror - both of insurgent groups as well as of the counter insurgency forces. Many girls faced shame, many boys had to witness that or even direct assault if daring to protest. Human rights were trampled with impunity by all who possessed brute power. How did such an atmosphere impact the youth of those years? What were the traumatic effects? What were the ill effects that still haunt their minds? Unfortutely these issues are hardly discussed in media or there is very little research or study in this broad area.
A United tions Report:
According to ‘Mental Health Matters : Social Inclusion of Youth with Mental Health Conditions’, a UN publication (2014), one fifth of the total world population in the age group between 14 to 24 are termed as youth. Out of this 85-90 percent of youth are from low income tions. As per this report in comparison to high income tions where 5 percent of the youth suffer from serious mental health problems, this figure is around 20 percent in case of the low income tions. Out of those youth up to the age of 30 years, who have spent Disability Adjusted Life Years (DALYS), 30 percent are victims of mental disability. According to a research study the major causes of such DALYS are road accidents, Unipolar Depressive Disorder, Violence, Schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder, addiction, alcoholism, self-inflicted injuries, serious depression, HIV/ AIDS or abortion/ miscarriage, etc. (Gore F.M and others, 2011, ‘Global burden of disease in young people aged 10-24 years: a systematic alysis’, The Lancet, Vol.377, No. 9783.Pages 2093-2012)
According to this report, factors such as poverty, social exclusion, oppression, strife and trauma of post conflict experience have been identified as major causes of mental health disturbance. Here is a brief discussion about some of them.
Exploitation/Bullying and Peer Rejection:
Bullying is broadly defined as intentiol, and repeated acts of aggression that take physical, verbal (e.g. harassment, threats, and me-calling) and relatiol (e.g. spreading rumours, influencing social relationships) forms. Bullying typically occurs in situations where there is a power or status difference. In high-income countries, bullying represents a significant and worrisome problem for many school-aged youth, as it is one of the most common forms of aggression and victimization experienced by school-aged children. The prevalence of frequent involvement in bullying appears to increase in late elementary school, peak during middle school, and decline in high
World Health Organization conducted a survey upon those youths who have experienced bullying/oppression since 1990. This survey was conducted in 40 developing countries. According to this survey 8.6% to 45.2% of boys and 4.8% to 35.8% girls acknowledged oppression and peer rejection to be enduring factor even in their later life.
Adverse and Traumatic Events in Children and Youth:
Lots of researches have established links between adverse life events and a variety of mental-health conditions. Cross-sectiol and longitudil studies of adverse life events have shown an association with mental-health conditions. Most episodes of depression, perhaps as many as 50 per cent, are preceded by a major life event. It has been suggested by various researches that stressful life events — both major and minor — often precede the onset of depression, and that an accumulation of stressors can have a graded relationship with its severity.
Conflict and Post-conflict Mental Health:
Many studies of mental-health conditions among youth in low and middle income countries have focused on post-conflict or disaster settings. Exposure to war and conflict remains one of the greatest risk factors for post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other mental-health conditions among adolescents. In contrast to the developed countries such symptoms of similar disorder are neglected in the developing or under developed countries which has a cumulative impact on the mental health of the later generations, resulting in depressive disorder. Adverse life events, such as physical assault, death of a close relative, unemployment, or termition of a romantic relationship, have been found to be associated with more severe depression.
Mental Health of Youths in Low and Middle Income tions:
It has been indirectly stated in the above report that the main factor for mental health degeneration in these countries is poverty. Malnutrition, lack of means and resources for proper care of one’s body and mind, low standard of education, continuous strife, war and resultant displacement has led to rapid deterioration of mental health of the youth of such countries. The Child Atlas Project commissioned by the World Health Organization has brought this fact out that very little resources are allocated for mental health related issues in these countries. There is not even a nodal government department to acknowledge mental health as an issue. (Source: Mental Health Matters : Social Inclusion of Youth with Mental Health Conditions, United tions Publications, 2014 )
Coming back to the local scerio, it’s not only the youths born in the Seventies and Eighties who found themselves to be unfortute; those born in the subsequent decades too have grown up in the environment of endless social and political conflicts, violent ethnic clashes, subject to crises of identity resulting in rise of violence, addiction to alcohol and drugs in almost every sphere of their lives. In addition, there was a very cynical and utterly selfish class of leadership in form of government officials and politicians that they encountered. The children and youth growing up in this milieu experienced such a society where a formidable section was mentally and physically devastated in the spirals of murderous violence while another specialized the art of getting money and amassing wealth through all exploitive means. The society remained silent to the fact that the growing children require a healthy social atmosphere, the seniors trying to inculcate human values for the young ones. Those exceptiol voices who had shown their concerns were silence in manners most brutal.
12th August, this year, will be celebrated by the United tions as Intertiol Youth Day. The main theme of the day will be engaging youth towards civic and collective endeavors. Long back in 1941, an American Sociologist Paul H Handy had identified the challenges in transition to youth to adulthood as – Mature economically, mature socially and mature in marital relations. The question, for us, is for those who grew up in perpetual fear and in a society decadent economically, politically and socially, how will those young men and women will transform themselves into adulthood? And what dreams they will dear to have about their transition to adulthood!