April 16, 2019

Riffat Ahmed

Riffat Ahmed the chairperson of Siddiqui’s International School and the treasurer of Bangladesh English Medium Schools Assistant Foundation is a soul full of hope for the young generation. Her dream is to create an environment where peace of mind is far more essential than a grade sheet. She believes in a more empathetic human race that promises to enhance humanity to its fullest brim of potential.

WIL: As an academic, where do you think lies the real source of depression among our young people?

RA: I don’t believe there is one real source of depression. It is a competitive world. We are having to run through races in terms of education, art and even extracurricular. Everything is about achievements and hardly anything is about learning. This constant pressure to get that A+ and prove that you are capable takes more than a toll on the mental health which causes the youth to fall into a pit of self-inferiority.

I think the root cause for the lack of life in the youth is the deprivation of sports. The minimal quantity of the recreational activities provided are limited on it is own. The main focus is projected onto textbooks and grade sheets, not on brain development.

It is a simple process, a chemical balance. Physical activities release dopamine and serotonin, that is, the happy hormones. The children are bound to be ecstatic and energetic after a session of sports. Apart from this, recreational activities teach children how to communicate, socialize and enhances thinking abilities. Secondly, the constant back and forth traveling from school to coaching classes is a hurdle itself. It tires out the brain and leaves little to no space for other activities. However, the education that we provide these days are bounded by numbers and not smiles. Education should be preached in a way where the children welcome the new knowledge.

WIL: What role do you think parents should have when it comes to dealing with issues of depression?

RA: Before dealing with depression, parents should be well aware of the traits their children possess. There are symptoms such as – reluctance to participate, lying, aggression etc are the earlier stages of depression. Parents should be well versed about the importance and necessary preservation of a healthy mind. In this era, we are all running behind career growth and hiding behind screens. We hardly notice what is passing by and what is ahead of us. Parents need to take some time off regardless, for their children in order to stay updated and aware of all the contributing factors leading to the children’s growth. Parents need to focus on bringing their child up to be a good human being and not another machine to serve societal goals. Parents should tell their children to actively participate on what they are passionate about. They, under no circumstances, should push their children to be the best, instead teach them to be kind.

WIL: Do you think that mental health as a subject should be in our educational curriculum?

RA: I strongly believe so, however I think it is best to keep the children under the shade. Given their age and knack of learning new things, a basic conceptualised understanding is more than fine for the children. On the contrary, parents and teachers should have a deeper knowledge of mental health diseases and symptoms. Schools should definitely have regular counselling sessions. Teachers should be provided training upon the causes and effects of mental health due to exterior pressure and the measure to prevent it. Along with the teachers, the parents should be well educated on this too. The children are the centre of attention here. We, schools and parents are the building factors to their own growth of space and mind.

Sabrina Shaheed 

Sabrina Shaheed has been the Principal of Sir John Wilson School since 2016. She has 27 years of experience in teaching and Education Management. She thinks both parents and academics act as a contributing factor that either builds or breaks a child. Below, she has shared her views and remedies as to how depression can be recognized and prevented.

WIL: Where do you think, as an academic, lies the real source of depression among our young people?

SS: There is an immense amount of pressure on the young people which mainly manifests itself in the form of competition. Competition is not always healthy and having to compete from an early age leaves a mark on the future of the youth. This early participation to compete academically creates a domino affect which follows the youth towards their career. It gives birth to further personality traits which are hardly acceptable in the society if you are to leave a calm and tranquil life. For an instance- dishonesty, lack of ethics, trust issues etc are the follow up characteristics that are the residue to a poor mental health. These thing are better off if they are addressed at an early state in order to take more fruitful rectifications.

WIL: Do you think that the inclusion about the study of mental health should be in our educational curriculum?

SS: Yes, it is an absolute necessity. Health and moral education should be included in the syllabus as they are embedded in universal values encompassing topics like character, ethics, and hygiene. In Sir John Wilson school, a platform for dialogue between teachers-students-parents is being created with 4 sessions being already conducted. It helps in communication and paves a way for a fitter and healthier relationship between the three parties.

WIL: What role do you think parents should have when it comes to dealing with issues of depression?

SS: Parents should pay heed to their children regardless their type of lifestyle. It should always be a two way communication where there should be no existence of any walls between the parents and the children. For further assistance, parents should pay special assistance to their children’s passion and should always be supportive of it. In order to simplify it, parents should prioritize their children over anything else

WIL: What extracurricular activities do you suggest students should take part in as a coping mechanism when it comes to depression?

SS: According to me, positivity should always be encouraged, especially to the youth. Students should be free to explore any activity they have a zeal for. School should provide multiple activities such as- sports, art, music etc. The teachers should be given further programs that result in them to not only use textbooks to teach but also for them to be aware and supportive of every student’s mental health. Schools, furthermore, should have more outdoor activities because nature indeed is a good friend to us human beings.

Dr. Asifa Sultana

Dr. Asifa Sultana is an Assistant Professor of Department of English and Humanities at BRAC University. She has completed her PhD in language development of children in Bangladesh from University of Canterbury, New Zealand. She is currently involved in a range of research projects on child language development that connect Bangla child language data to the vast cross-linguistic body of work conducted in this area.

WIL: What are the reasons of depression in today’s youth?

AS: I think today’s youth is under a lot of pressure to perform. They are also exposed to a lot of information; they get to see what is available in the world which not necessarily are available to them. Living with limited resources, with the knowledge of the most advanced facilities, may create a sense of dissatisfaction among them. This tremendous pressure may lead to depression among the youth.

WIL: How do you overcome depression?

AS: In my opinion, sharing your thoughts to people you trust may help. It creates a sense of connection and bonding. After a friendly chat, the person suffering from depression is likely to feel supported. However, if the problem is more severe in nature, professional help must be sought.

WIL: How do you develop leadership skills?

AS: Leadership skills can be nurtured by giving responsibilities to students. As teachers we often tend to spoon feed students. Instead of this we need to give tasks to the students that require them to contribute in a creative and responsible manner. This will result in students taking the ownership of their work. Also, group tasks instead of individual tasks helps students connect better in the community, take charge.

WIL: What are the role of parents and teachers in developing leadership skills?

AS: Parents must believe in their children, and start showing it in actions. We often notice, at the university, that parents do things that their children are supposed to do; such as taking down class schedules, and explaining their personal problems to the teachers. The may result in students not learning to deal with their problems.

WIL: Do you have any message for the youth?

AS: Today’s youth is focused in a lot of ways. Some of them have very clear vision, and aim. However, many of them lack a sense of bonding in the community; they lead an individualistic life. People with such attitudes may not be able to work successfully in a team, and also not be able to lead a team of people. So in my opinion, today’s youth need to develop empathy, be open to listen to the others’ problems, and think of themselves as members of a large community. This will not only benefit them; this will benefit the whole world.

Alvi Rahmaan Atoshie
& Israr Hasan
Studying at BRAC University
Rasel Ahmod
Studying at Notre Dame University Bangladesh

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