Talk openly about mental health
(Third of four parts)
FS’ daughter first attempted suicide in high school. FS says, “The school wanted us to keep quiet, and let her graduate even if she did not attend class. She says that only her BFF (bestfriend forever) understands her, but when we told her that girl is also suicidal, she got mad. Natakot kami, ayaw na namin siyang pagsabihan, bigay na lang namin ang gusto niya. Now in college, she attempted suicide again when her boyfriend left her. She is also failing most subjects.”
To FS: Schools are anxious when mental health is invoked, so your child’s school wanted to hush up her suicide attempt—understandable but wrong. Keeping quiet makes individuals feel rejected and even more alone. No wonder your daughter believes that only her BFF, who is also suicidal, understands her. Rather than bashing her BFF, discuss openly with the latter’s parents to ensure that their child also gets help. Tell your daughter’s school to face rather than deny what is happening to students. Show them this column.
Grade promotion without learning is senseless. “Students whose poor grades are inflated are thrown into … the delusional expectation of academic success,” says professor Jackson Carse of Wilfrid Laurier University. “Students are set up to fail. It can be overwhelming for students who arrive at university ill-prepared … [They often] develop mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety.”
Worse, the school ignored your child’s issues. She never learned to cope, and tried suicide again. The school should have mandated a leave of absence, with a moratorium on grades, and helped your child seek help. Healing takes priority, not academics.
NL, an Ateneo engineering major, was diagnosed with depression in high school. “I took a leave, sought help from a psychiatrist and my spiritual adviser, and learned to check on myself. When I returned to school, I increased the intensity of studying, since it was not fair to my batchmates if I skipped anything. During the pandemic, I managed my time well, because I had learned focus and discipline.”
In our college problem solving class, NL performed with perseverance and grace. He had already surmounted far bigger problems in life than anything assigned in school.
FS fears how her daughter will react, so gives in to her. Schools often grant accommodations, but what will happen the next time her child quarrels with friends or receives a reprimand from her boss?
FS is disturbed by Ambeth Ocampo’s column on suicides (Feb. 3, 2023). “We could not believe that one mother asked him to let her daughter withdraw from his class so that she could get an A grade the next time. Is this a problem with mental health, bad parenting, or ‘entitlement from never losing at video games,’ as he said? Our daughter stays in her room all the time with gadgets.”
Ambeth and I are friends, and what he describes is sadly true. Obsession with grades rather than learning afflicts many students (and parents). Grade grubbing may be triggered by overparenting (as former Stanford dean Julie Lythcott-Haims argues in her book “How to Raise an Adult”), toxic competition, fear of failure exacerbated by “video game pacifiers” (as Ambeth points out), a poor sense of self, among others.
“A cellphone or tablet [is] the new pacifier … [that keeps] a child’s attention, makes them quiet and easy to feed,” says Ambeth. “I sense a generation whose entitlement springs from never losing on video games that form them. Before they lose to their smartphones, they simply reset the games and always end up a winner. Real life is more than virtual lives … Learning to cope with and in the world … saves lives.” With support and accountability, students with mental health issues can thrive. “I [used to] rely on my parents if something went wrong,” says NL. “For the first time in my life, I had to handle [mental health squarely]. But depression was a struggle necessary for me to grow, and it made me stronger.”
For how resilient students cope with difficulties, get “Bouncing Back: Life and Learning in a Time of Crisis” from Lazada or Shopee.
(Next week: Finding Purpose Helps Mental Health)
Queena N. Lee-Chua is on the Board of Directors of Ateneo’s Family Business Center. Get her print book “All in the Family Business” at Lazada or Shopee, or e-book at Amazon, Google Play, Apple iBooks. Contact the author at email@example.com.
If you or someone you know needs help, call the National Center for Mental Health hotline at 0917-899-USAP (8727); (02) 7-989-USAP; or 1553 (landline to landline, toll-free).
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