Helpline services such as the Direct Intervention System for Health Awareness (DISHA), launched by the district’s National Rural Health Mission, help students face exams better

School qualifying examinations are hyped to such a degree that for a child, failure in it is the end of the world. The stress is immense. But help is at hand.

Helpline services such as the Direct Intervention System for Health Awareness (DISHA), launched by the district’s National Rural Health Mission, help students face exams better.

The service has been diversified since March 2013, when it was launched primarily to counsel students. The past week (March 3 to 9) was dominated by calls from students — over 640. Even when DISHA touched the 30,000-mark in December last year, it was examination-stress-related calls that accounted for over half this figure at 16,051.

All calls are attended by the 21 counsellors and they forward cases that require more ‘effective management’ to a member of an empanelled team of doctors, says nodal officer of DISHA B. Unnikrishnan.

Symptoms

A doctor on call is P.S. Kiran, who is also the nodal officer. He was forwarded five calls over the past week from students. The symptoms are almost always similar. A good night’s sleep is often the first casualty. Other issues are palpitations and breathing difficulty. Students get distracted and struggle to retain facts which only fuels their panic.

Counselling is done in two parts. The first involves relaxing the child by prompting him/her to do breathing exercises, listen to music, or take a walk. The second is more complicated especially since it done instantly and over the phone as doctors attempt to change the attitude of the child, Dr. Kiran says. “We tell them to shift their focus from the exam result to the effort at hand. Students are often made to believe that it is a turning point and that their life will be ruined if they do not do well,” he added.

Since mid-January, the DMHP has organised awareness classes in around 15 schools in the district. Students do not articulate their concerns to parents, who they fear will only reprimand them. Teachers too add on the pressure to ensure that the school gets the 100 per cent pass label. So, the students have no one to talk to. During such camps, students are urged to open up to at least a few of their close friends or to call the helpline number of DISHA, 1056.