Mental Cost of Education In the time of Pandemic

Mental Health is fragile and it affects everyone equally. One of the ways to keep it sane is learning and creating something new.

Mash Project Foundation along with Global shapers, Kolkata and Pause for Perspective, co-hosted an interactive session along with an open conversation on “Mental Cost of Education in the time of pandemic” on 11th of October 2020 via Zoom. Our speaker for the session, Lalitha Pooja works in Pause for Perspective. They are doing some great work in the field of mental wellness and other related fields. It is a counseling center for mind full living located in Hyderabad. The founder is a clinical psychologist trained in mindfulness.Ms Pooja began with a fact that whatever we do in life, there’s a cost for it. One of the costs is the mental cost which is very under spoken of. Especially in 2020, which is more about losses and discoveries, mental cost has become even more prevalent to be talked about.In the intersection of education, teenage and mental health lies the “self” of the person. How these three things intersect and where do we see ourselves in the intersection is the most key thing to explore. The speaker received very good response of the audience stating how these three different things mean differently to them.

Pandemic has completely changed the way we look at the world. It felt like there was a pause in everyone’s life and it took time for all of us to realize how to deal with it. With all the uncertainty going on about exams, classes shifting to online mode, work from home culture developing at a fast pace, everyone has switched to laptops and gadgets. With all of these things in the background the new normal comes in which is the online education. The speaker asks what the things are that has been made hard by online education. To which people replied with all the difficulties they are going through and are having a hard time coping with it. Some of them were that the fun and the physical interaction with the classmates and friends is missing out, we are missing opportunities to socialize and also the feeling of community and support system is lacking. Now that we are all the time at home is itself a hard thing. Not all homes are safe spaces for children as there has been an increase in domestic violence against children. The Indian child helpline number has reported 92000 calls in just first 11 days of the lockdown. This shows how much of a bigger impact the lockdown has on everyone.

The intention of science to study mental health was to find a way to understand people but now instead of being a place of concern and understanding, it is more of a place of labeling and boxing people. The speaker busted some myths about mental health and the common ideas around it. To which she brings up the definition put up by WHO about mental health. WHO defines mental health as “a state of well-being in which every individual realizes their own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and truthfully and is able to make contribution to the community”. Just reading the definition makes us feel stressed out. The biggest question that arises is what is referred as the normal stress and who defined that this is normal stress and this is not normal stress. The definition is not at all inclusive. It’s constantly telling that there is a set of normal stresses that we face and we have to go through it but how is it the same for everyone. How would people associate with what normal stresses are?

According to the definition, productivity is the only thing we need to do and it is more important than the wellbeing of the person. With this whole set of what world is telling about mental health and what science is implying about what mental health means, the questions like where do you stand and what do you want can provide an aid in the procedure of finding the meaning of mental health. One important practice everyone should do is to reach out and talk to people you trust like family or friends or even a professional. And if you see someone who is struggling, kindness and understanding can go a long way. As tough as it may get facing these new experiences and challenges, always remember that you are not alone.

The questions like what are the stories the world tells about being a teenager, how does the intersectionality impact your day to day function, how do the three things come together in the daily life, what are the small things you can do to take care of yourself etc., compelled the audience to think about these things and in the procedure find answers to these questions.  The session ended with the speaker giving few basic tips on how to cope up in such times like talking and reaching out, giving time to oneself, loving and caring ourselves, not being too hard on ourselves, etc.,The host thanked the speaker for such an enlightening session and for creating a space where everyone could share things that they have been keeping to themselves for a long time.

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