by Dr.Madhav Prabhu
Life is such a precious gift, from the moment you open your eyes to this world, from the very first breath there is so much to feel, so much to experience. Someone rightly said life is the most awesome festival you can celebrate. Yet there can be times when life becomes a burden, and the reason to live becomes so non-existent.
Lives could shape the future of our country, someone’s son, brother, or sister to another, yet these relations could not bind them to fight it out.
It was with this background that I was asked to give a small talk on positive thinking and handling failure at one of the professional colleges in the city. As a doctor we are used to counseling patients, giving them hope, and trying to make them cope with illness, but this was different. I had to do a lot of research for this one as here these were not regular patients whose disease is manifest, but here we were to jump into a house with occult depression and suicidal tendencies.
Well, it was at this time that I tried to figure out if I ever felt so in my own life because unless I felt it I could not connect with the kids. I knew exactly when I felt this and it’s not a one-off experience, most medical students go through this at the time of getting their post-graduate seats, the wait, the constant hammering of your relatives and friends, the pressure to earn, the frustration of being a degree holder but in unemployed, the fact that you lose your own self-esteem, well it’s a horrible feeling, especially for those who are alien to failure.
Problem starts at home, we try to see our kids as subjects to satisfy our unfulfilled dreams. At first the kids enjoy it like every new toy given to it, we want out kids to learn music, to dance, to skate to draw and yet score a perfect ten on ten in every exam.
We instill in them, ambitions that are not backed by passions. The pressure to score is so high that parents tend to forget that their children are reading and writing but do not know. We deprive our kids of ideational reasoning and make the mainframes of computers themselves. The idea that the child has to succeed becomes the one-line agenda that society and the parents expect, and failure is not acceptable.
Ninety percent and above is the only achievement, so much is the pressure to perform that the delicate beautiful mind shuts off all its facilities on this one-point program, this is in my view the point of the first contact with depression. The child simply forgets to live and turns into a mark-scoring machine, so much so that the entire learning process becomes exam-oriented. Can you imagine a doctor who reads to pass an exam or an engineer who reads complex processes to clear a semester, well don’t imagine you will soon find them.
We fail to sit down with our children and ask them what they want to do with their lives and push then towards what we think is right for them, how rational is that.
Sooner or later the last straw is broken and failure steps in, the problem are that the child and the parents can’t handle failure because they are never exposed to it. One failure and you ostracize the child so much that the child begins to feel this is the end of life. Here starts the vicious cycle of self-destruction, negative thoughts leading to negative actions, loss of morale, and breakdown of self-esteem.
It’s actually here that the early signs of depression can be caught, the child starts to stay in isolation, annoyed by the company of anyone and everyone, excessive anger and fault finding, lack of concentration, lack of interest in almost anything and not to mention the loss of good health.
Soon the child gets into a Chakravyuha of negative thoughts reinforced by annoying social interaction and soon falls prey to abuse of drugs which temporarily disconnect the mind from the reality. The child falls deeper and deeper into this till the mind breaks down completely and this is the point where ending one’s own life becomes the only alternative.
Well, all this is known to most and so it was to me, I also searched the literature for successful people who were failures, to begin with, and to my surprise, I found that most of our role models and almost all of the best mind’s in the world were once big times failures.
Honda, Microsoft, Apple, Ford were all built by people who failed miserably in their many first attempts.Einstein, Edison were not taken in schools and were considered imbecile yet they turned out to be the most fabulous minds in the world.
Coming to think of it, you will not know the value of success if you don’t fail. I can’t imagine the world if all these great men would have given up their lives in failure.
Well with all this study the lecture at the college went well, everyone was happy that the lecture is done with and we could go home, but then as doctors, we try to take home much more and so we started interacting with students even gave them our numbers just in case, actually speaking I never thought these elite professional college students would need any help. This turned out to be an illusion and it was shocking how much these little minds were holding to themselves.
There were students who hated the subjects and had to give up something in which they had tremendous talent, there were students who were doing the course just to make their parents happy, there was no interest in the subject nor was there a will to excel, unbelievably there was a huge chunk of students who were going through the cycles of depression and this was a rude awakening to me.
Some of the kids showed me their past artwork and really what creativity they had, I was so taken aback that this talent was sacrificed for the degree. Don’t you think we need good artists too instead of uninterested doctors and engineers?
I think it’s time to introspect really hard now, we can’t afford the loss of any more lives. We need to act now or we will never end these cycles of depression. One good way to start is to communicate, talk with your kids, and let the kids talk with their friends, mobiles, tv’s, social media can wait.
Family and friends are the best cushions one can have. If you are in constant touch with your kids you will notice the subtle signs of depression, that’s the time we need to give more to our children, some good company and some nice words can make a world of difference.
Sit for one meal a day together as a family and just talk about your day and that will support every member of the family. Know what’s on the child’s mind, be a friend, and don’t let a blue whale be your child’s best friend. Suicide is an impulse and a little support at that fateful moment can save a life.
Society and social values change over time, a girl playing cricket would be a taboo ten years back but today the Indian women’s cricket team is the toast of the country. Society needs to stop being myopic, there can be a different view and it’s ok to express it, there can be alternative careers and it’s ok to pursue that should be the mood of the society. We need to stop being patronizing and criticizing uncles and aunties and be more inclusive in the happiness of our young. We may no longer have joint families but we can definitely have common concerns.
The jadu ki jhappi is actually not a bad idea, it does work and I can vouch for it. If you find a friend going through a tough time, it’s time to give him a hug and tell him it’s ok, your failure means you are on your way to success. There is help too, there are professional counselors to help get rid of all the negativity.
Dear parents, please do everything to support your child but make sure you also tell your loved ones that it’s ok to fail.
About the Author: Dr. Madhav Prabhu M.B.B.S, M.D (General Medicine) is a Consultant in KLE’s Dr. Prabhakar Kore Hospital, Teaches in JNMC and has experience with treating dengue. He is also part of the Dengue vaccine initiative supported by WHO.