Dubai - KT for Good: Routine counselling needed for parents, teachers in UAE, not just students, say experts

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Aden - Yasmine El Tohamy - Doctors have said that depression and other mental health issues are not uncommon among adolescents.

Routine counselling is important for adolescent school-goers. However, it is equally important for parents, teachers, and the general community of educators that communicate with school-goers on a regular basis, said a cross-section of students, psychological experts and the parenting community.

According to a Al Khaleej Today poll that quizzed a total of 3,178 readers, an overwhelmingly high number of people said that not just students, but parents and teachers interacting with students must also undergo regular counselling. About 79.5 per cent of the readers said counselling is important, and only 20 per cent of the poll takers have said there is no need for counselling.

16% of adolescents suffer from mental health disorders

Paediatricians and doctors have said that depression and other mental health issues are not uncommon among adolescents. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), mental health conditions account for 16 per cent of the global burden of disease and injury in people aged 10-19 years.

The study said: "Adolescence is a crucial period for developing and maintaining social and emotional habits important for mental well-being. These include adopting healthy sleep patterns; taking regular exercise; developing coping, problem-solving and interpersonal skills; and learning to manage emotions."

It added: "Supportive environments in the family, at school and in the wider community are also important. An estimated 10-20 per cent of adolescents globally experience mental health conditions, yet these remain underdiagnosed and undertreated."

Emotional disorders commonly emerge during adolescence. In addition to depression or anxiety, adolescents with emotional disorders can also experience excessive irritability, frustration or anger.

Social stigmas in the UAE

Dr Sunny Kurian, a Sharjah-based paediatrician and the founder president of the UAE wing of the Indian Academy of Paediatrics, said: "From the family to communities and schools, all stakeholders need to understand that some amount of depression is very common at this age."

He said: "Among members of the Indian community, there are some members who think people who go for counselling are 'mad' or 'have serious psychiatric issues'. But, this is not the case. Youngsters need a lot of support at this age." According to Dr Kurian, the teacher is the best person to identify these issues. "Large support groups that facilitate non-judgmental, open-ended conversations are also very important." He said these groups can be built within schools, communities, and among religious circles.

Parents plead schools to be more understanding

In response to the #Here4you campaign, YS, a parent, said schools in the UAE put tremendous pressure on children to perform academically well. She said: "If your child is scoring above 90 per cent in studies, they are 'super talented kids' but if they have only 50 per cent and above, the kids are tagged as 'good for nothing." She said open discrimination and humiliation of low-scorers takes away the confidence from children. "In this case, teachers too need counselling to learn how to respond in a more positive manner to students," she said.

Some Al Khaleej Today readers commented on the issue as well. Adeena Asif said: "Actually, everyone should undergo counselling - parents, teachers and students. Everyone who is involved in moulding the child has to get counselling to make our children's best human being and leaders. In every child, there is a leader, if we guide them properly."

A second reader, Rashid Musthafa, said: "Not students alone... parents too (must undergo regular counselling)." Uma Charles said: "Yes, and even teachers too."

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Dhanusha Gokulan

Originally from India, Dhanusha Gokulan has been working as a journalist for 10 years. She has a keen interest in writing about issues that plague the common person, and will never turn down a human interest story. She completed her Bachelor in Arts in Journalism, Economics, and English Literature from Mangalore University in 2008. In her spare time, she dabbles with some singing/songwriting, loves travelling, and Audible is her favourite mobile application. Tweet at her @wordjunkie88

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