Students, Poverty and mental health.

IN Tharparkar, Pakistan, recently, a man killed three of his children by throwing them down the well, and then proceeded to take his own life.

A report published by the Sindh Mental Health Authority has revealed high rates of suicide and mental illness in Tharparkar, one of the most impoverished regions of Pakistan.

While most mental health research in Pakistan has occurred in urban urban and peri-urban areas, this groundbreaking study is one of the first of its kind to be conducted in an impoverished rural area.

Some startling discoveries have been made, such as the fact that most suicides are in the age bracket of  10-20 years which is vastly different from the rates commonly seen in the rest of the country with most victims being in the age range of 20-35.

So why are young students / people from impoverished communities taking their own lives and what can we do to stop this?

The Asian Development Bank estimates that roughly a quarter of Pakistan's live below the poverty line. The relationship between poverty and poor physical health is well known, with the prime minister in his first speech highlighting the impacts of poor nutrition on the health of young children from impoverished families.

However, little attention is paid to the psychological problems resulting from the stressors stemming from poverty.

Realisng this gap, the World Federation for Mental Health selected '' Mental Health in an Unequal World '' as the theme for this year's World Mental Health Day that was observed recently.

Research has shown that the psychological traumas associated with poverty don't just arise due to material deprivation but also the self-perception that one has less as compared to others.

Access to social media has made this even more pronounced with a click of a button allowing affected students to view the luxurious lifestyles of the privileged and draw unhealthy comparisons with their own quality of life.

This results in a sense of deprivation, resentment, despair and eventually ends up in mental health problems.

Psychological problems result in a myriad of problems for youth/students living in poverty. Compromised cognitive results in poor academic performance, early school dropouts and reduced productivity.

This further entraps them in the vicious cycle of poverty by preventing them from securing gainful employment and achieving their full earning potential. Poor economic conditions and lack of employment opportunities further compound these problems.

To deal with the unpleasant thoughts and emotions, they often resort to unhealthy behaviors such as substance abuse, which is steadily increasing with addiction reportedly claiming 700 lives every day in Pakistan, and suicide, the majority of whose affectees are the disenfranchised youth/students.

Displacement of stress on others in the form of anger and aggression results in dysfunctional interpersonal relationships leading to increasing rates of domestic violence.

All these problems may also encourage impoverished youth to take up criminal activities, causing an increase in violent crime, encounters with law enforcement, and subsequent incarceration. 

The sadness of this publishing continues to Part 2. The World Students Society thanks authors Taha Sabri and Mekaiel Zia.


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