`Train teachers to identify behavioural disorders in children'

CHENNAI OCT. 10. Teachers should be trained to identify behavioural disorders in children and nurture students through adolescence when they faced enormous strain due to academic stress, peer pressure and changing lifestyles, speakers at a workshop said today.

"Childhood depression, unlike adult depression, is difficult to recognise, and there are many childhood psychiatric disorders, which need to be diagnosed early and treated. Teachers should to be able to identify these symptoms early," said R. Ponnudurai, president, Indian Psychiatric Society (IPS).

He was speaking at the inauguration of a one-day workshop on `Emotional disturbances and behavioural disorders in children and adolescents'.

About 400 teachers, including 200 from Corporation schools, participated in the programme, organised by the IPS to mark World Mental Health Day.

Organisers said the theme was chosen keeping in mind reports of student suicides and harassment by teachers.

Dr. Ponnudurai said parents and teachers possibly contributed to some disorders such as school phobia students suffered from.

"Why do parents and teachers force students to choose subjects they do not like? It can lead to many psychological disorders, and in some cases, even suicide."

The media too was responsible for causing depression, especially among young women, D. Jayakumar, Law Minister, said.

Referring to serials in television channels, he said the programmes projected depressing circumstances that could disturb viewers emotionally — elaborate scenes that showed women committing suicide because they could not cope with trying situations.

He said mental disorders occurred mostly due to biological deficiencies or social circumstances. "It is an important responsibility of the Government and society to prevent such circumstances, and the State is taking steps to help such disturbed people, especially women, to survive on their own," he said.

Lifestyle changes were also responsible for causing mental disorders in youngsters, said P. Vijayalakshmi, Director of Medical Education. Children were being influenced by increasing exposure to foreign cultures and by peers, especially where both parents were working, and were thus emotionally disturbed. Parents should play a great role in nurturing children during these phases, she said.

Teachers should keep a constant watch on students to ensure discipline, N. Thalavaisundaram, Health Minister, said, citing instances of ragging and unruly student behaviour.