KOLKATA: Parents now spend less than half the time they would devote to their children a decade-and-half ago, believe city psychiatrists. They pointed out that it has led to a communication gap, often resulting in depression and suicides. Gadgets have been the biggest ‘intruder’ into ‘family time’, with a vast majority of parents admitting that their children spend longer periods on cell phones and laptops than they did talking to them. The suicide of two city students in less than a week has yet again reiterated that the gulf between youngsters and parents has widened.
The changing fabric of society, an altered lifestyle and gadget-dependence have led to isolation and loss of communication, according to Sanjay Garg, psychiatric consultant with a leading city hospital. “Living under the same roof doesn’t ensure sharing a bond any more. Children prefer to keep their troubles and anxieties to themselves till things get out of hand and parents, too, spend their leisure with gadgets. I have come across parents who are not aware, which class their children are studying in,” said Garg.
Psychiatrist J Ram said, “Cyber-communication can never be a substitute for face-to-face conversations, especially within the family.”
A few simple measures can help to address and identify stress and depression among youngsters, said the experts. “Every family should set aside a time for themselves when nothing will interfere conversations. It is important to talk to your children to be able to gauge their concerns and anxieties. Unless you do that consistently, you won’t know if they are depressed or suicidal,” added Ram.
He added that most issues were likely to be resolved if youngsters opened up early. “Besides interacting with children, parents should also be patient and convince them that they are there to help,” said Ram.
Academic anxiety was the second most common trigger for suicides next to chronic depression, Garg said.
“Pressure to perform and competition among peers can be damaging. Many fail to cope and descend into depression. It is the parents’ responsibility to help the child recover. Most tend to rebuke youngsters in such cases, which can be dangerous,” he said.
A psychologist said she counselled a 15-year-old girl who attempted suicide after failing in her math exam. “She feared her parents will scold her. She had stopped confiding in her parents and the latter, too, didn’t bother to find out if all was well with her,” she said. Depression precedes suicidal tendencies and it is not difficult to identify the signs, she added.