Tackling Addiction and Mental Health issues in Children and Adolescents

Dr Chintan Dalal
Natural Therapies in Treatment of Addictive/Depressive Behaviors & Psychosomatic Disorders
August 1, 2020
Meditation for Addiction Recovery
Meditation for Addiction Recovery
September 2, 2020
Tackling Addiction and Mental Health Issues in Children and Adolescents

Ms. Amrit Marbaniang Burrett

Youth Counsellor, Administrator , Anatta Dehradun

Amrit Marbaniang Burrett is a woman who wears many hats. One of the predominant ones has been her association with the prestigious Doon school, that has given the world many an illustrious persona, as their Social Service Coordinator. An avid sports enthusiast, she has had the honour of participating in the Republic day parade of the nation. Amrit brings her passion and drives in counselling to create a space for children and adolescents in all strata of society to grow into healthy and happy individuals. She is a Life Member of the Friends of Doon – an organization that works in conserving the green cover in the Doon valley and a member on the Board of Human Rights and Social Justice at Dehradun.

Growing Up

Growing up in Shillong in a time without the internet age, she got involved in numerous sports activities and joined the NCC where she travelled and met children from various states and walks of life. This gave her the opportunity to participate in the Republic day parade for the nation which was a landmark experience of her life.

Doon Journey

Amrit got involved with the Latika Roy foundation where she was a counsellor for children and adolescents with various problems and disabilities. This was her first exposure to the same. Later she joined Doon school as their social services coordinator.

Udaan

She spearheaded programmes like Udaan which has been a hallmark programme of Doon school. Udaan has been running for 8 years now. It is run by the boys of Doon school wherein they spread the awareness of addiction amongst the slums and villages of Dehradun. The advantage being, the programmes are done by the boys themselves, hence, the youth in these areas are more receptive as it comes from individuals from their age group. This becomes inspirational to both. The programmes have been running for 8 years now and still going strong.

Tempus

Tempus was a programme initiated by another student who was an artist. He was keen on teaching art, crafts dance and singing to students of other socio-economically backward schools in the slums and villages. The organization was formed, boys with skills were selected who would go into the schools and teach the children. This would be to the extent of teaching that the recipients could convert it into a vocation too. The children who had these art classes after school would also be motivated to do better in academics. Tempus was replicated in a school in Punjab with great success.

Parent Adolescent Relationship

According to Amrit, adults have to be involved in the lives of their children. Then they will include them in their lives. Most problems happen when the adult is not involved with the child’s life. Enforced interventions will make adolescents resistant and resentful. Communication is the key to solve most problems. One needs to be their buddy. At the same time, there has to be firmness and a boundary of a parent who is, at the same time, approachable. Then the adolescent will not take the parent for granted and will look up to them for solutions to their problems and will be more receptive. Never stop loving the child.

If the child is hiding things from the parent or the parent thinks that it is doing something that cannot be condoned- could be because the adolescent just wants to spend some time away from the parents, seeks one’s own space and might not be really hiding things. If they are, then one needs to establish channels of communication with the adolescent.

Building Awareness Programmes for Schools on Addiction and Developmental Issues- Challenges and Solutions

Amrit shared about the challenges of approaching schools for awareness programmes regarding addictions. The schools are very wary of the same as they feel the impression given out would be that the school has children who use drugs. Hence, the focus of the programmes should be getting the children to identify addictive traits in themselves, identify the addictive logics of their minds. These programmes should not be one-off workshops but a part of their school curriculum. This opens the flood gates to discussions, in the presence of an adult and clarification of doubts and finding out solutions. It is better to de-stigmatize addiction through such open forums so that children and parents are more open to seeking help when required and the kids are more aware to make the right choices for themselves.

The Buddy Programme

The buddy programme in Doon school should be a template for all schools. Here the children are sensitized to children with special needs, learning disabilities and developmental disabilities like autism etc. One boy is assigned to be a buddy to one such child. As a result, the boy is sensitized to the child’s problems, they develop learning and understanding of the same along with learning compassion and respect. This helps the affected child in building confidence and studying better and this buddy in his growth as a humane human being. The Buddy system can continue for a few months or even till they pass out of school. This is also extended to the children of schools in the community.

Differences Between Female and Male Adolescents

Female adolescents are different from boys, as, they are more expressive and open to share their thoughts and feelings. Boys have a tendency to keep things bottled up and that gets displaced in ways that might not be healthy.

Sex and Sexuality in Adolescents -Challenges and Solutions

Children today reach puberty at an early age. Due to the internet, they get more information which they find difficult to process. One need not wait for them to reach their teens to speak with them. If a child asks about something related to sexuality one has to speak to them at their level and be truthful and factually direct with them. Adolescents are ridden by hormones, by how they appear to others, how they look, their bodies, sexual identity crises, sexual attraction to the opposite gender or same gender, crushes etc. One has to be aware, open, unprejudiced and be approachable for them to share and discuss issues.

Meditation for Children and Adolescents

Meditation would be a great tool for children and adolescents to centre them. It would calm hyperactive children and give more focus and calm to a teenager who is usually hyper in their thoughts and actions.

It should be made a part of Life-skills training for them.

Anatta Humanversity

According to Amrit the Anatta programme is ideal, cleaning up a programme that is non-medical in nature, in luxurious places. The work is done by Anatta Humanversity should be spread so that more people get to know as many are not aware of the fantastic work done by the Anatta team.

Conclusion

Thus, Amrit shared her vast experience, highlighting that maintaining a healthy communication, and getting involved in the lives of children and adolescents can enable one to identify issues like mental health, addictive tendencies etc .earlier so that early remedial measures can be taken. Thus, we can truly strengthen the foundations of this oft-neglected age group, who then can be building blocks of the future.

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