This week many physicians and medical professionals across the country will be watching the documentary, "Race to Nowhere" being screened on the occasion of National Sleep Awareness Week. The film casts a spotlight on the growing dissonance in the education system where students cram for tests with the aim of higher performance and achievement, and the quality of life of our young students is in jeopardy because of an academic load that is not directed towards educating the student as a whole.
It has become critical to create and nurture school policies and practices that prioritize not only student performance and health but also look at the importance of a child's overall development in light of perceived success. This challenge is a societal one, where the intense pressure for success has put tremendous strain on the vulnerable group of teens and young adults who -- when unable to cope with pressure -- take the step of ending their life.
In today's competitive environment, education is not playing the role of nourishing innate virtues in children and laying the foundation for the long-term prosperity of society.
Teenage suicide in the United States is the symptom of a larger problem, and cannot be addressed merely at the level of teenagers. As parents get busier and spend less time with their families, children and young adults spend more time than ever on the Internet and on social networking websites. The excessive time spent online and the absence of personal interaction has created a disconnect in the minds of the young as to what is true success. A resilient child is one who is able to ride the crest of educational, social and emotional success and failure. This needs to be our foremost goal as a society and our best defense against teenage suicide.
Education reform should include innovative strategies that empower teachers to improve student outcomes and nurture their growth. Creative methods of teaching can help combat these issues and help children build healthy personalities. In addition to intellectually stimulating young minds, education must also include physical activities such as sports and ancient techniques such as meditation, yoga and pranayama (breathing techniques) as part of a learning process that will give them tools that help them manage their emotions.
It is important to encourage and develop the quality of resilience in children at an early age. When teenagers endanger their life thinking, "I am a failure if I do not get admission in a good school" or "I am successful only if make a lot of money" or "I am smart if my test score is the highest", we as a society are responsible.
In life you have to accept failure and success. Sometimes you will succeed, and sometimes you will fail. Not getting admission in a top school does not mean you have failed or that you are intellectually deficient. By the same coin, just by succeeding you should not think that you are better than others. Everyone who fails is not foolish. Everyone who passes an exam is also not an intellectual. Therefore, don't think that passing or failing an exam determines your entire life's direction.
You have to look at life from a broader perspective. The stress of passing with a high score to get admission in a top tier school can damage our intellect. Prepare well, give your best and accept whatever comes naturally. This life is very precious. You must consider your life as more important than the result of any exam.
Positive Reinforcement by Parents
Parents play a critical role in helping their child cope with pressure in a positive manner. If a child is dealing with failure, and you as a parent also express your sorrow, it will elevate the challenge. Allow the child to make mistakes - and learn from these mistakes.
Give them the tools to combat stress and to avoid burnout, and to learn the quintessential skill of balancing all aspects of their lives. Encourage them to give their best and have a bigger outlook towards life. It is your duty to see that the children do not have an emotional breakdown or get into a depression. Mood disorders such as depression, bipolar disorders and other mental disorders are major risk factors for suicide among children and adolescents.
Stressful life events and low levels of communication with parents may also be significant risk factors. It is important to understand though that such mental conditions are entirely preventable if society as a whole reaches out to embrace a healthy attitude towards understanding children and teens, and teaching them how to manage their emotions with tools such as Sudarshan Kriya.
Addressing Health Holistically
Through the Healthy People 2010 initiative, the Federal Government has set a national goal to reduce teen suicide attempts. And in their own research, they have found that addressing the overall health of children has demonstrated success. Research shows that early intervention strategies that target risk factors for depression, substance abuse and aggressive behaviors and building resiliency may help in preventing youth suicide.
Programs such as YES! (Youth Empowerment Seminar!) offer dynamic life skills that provide teens and young adults with a comprehensive and holistic set of tools to reach their full potential as students, leaders, and community members.
Our commitment as a society needs to address teen suicides not as an isolated problem, but as the symptom of the problems of modern societal development. Let us give our future generation the tools they need to thrive in a modern environment where they can become happy, creative and inspired human beings.
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