“Unemployment is a rampant problem that is affecting all of us. Due to the lack of job opportunities in the country, we are all disturbed. The government is not doing much to cultivate job prospects. You pay money to get to examinations and for application forms, and then you don’t get the job. In UP, unemployment and the bad state of agriculture are reasons for people to be under a lot of strain and feel like there are few options,” Mukesh Rajput from Mahoba distressingly concludes that many young people in small towns and rural areas attempt to commit suicide and slip into depression.
When we asked him about whether there were any doctors or counsellors available for these youngsters, he responded with a caustic, and yet meaningful chuckle, “What will they go and tell these doctors? That they are sad because no one is employing them?”
With climate change shaking policy imperatives, diplomatic processes and activism strongly over the last year, and the revelation of changing climate, technology and economic concerns perhaps causing strains of many kinds in young lives, what are the reverberations of these global patterns in India’s heartland? Responding to growing financial distress and student movements across the country, as well as with the knowledge of the claim to resources for adolescent mental health as part of the rural health mission, KL spoke to a few young people in Mahoba district about the issues concerning them. What were the avenues for seeking support and guidance, to deal with the strains they may be facing?
Chandan Kushwaha, a student from ITI Mahoba talks about a few of his struggles. “I wanted to apply for a job in the NTPC railways and I was notified of a vacancy in the NTPC almost a year ago. We have all filled our application forms and have been preparing for it, but our admit cards have not come yet. People did examinations for the JE [Junior Engineer position], but even those vacancies haven’t been announced. Recently, many people across UP sat for the TET, but the paper leaked so now they’ll have to rewrite it. That itself will take two months. Even if we clear the exams after prepping, almost every time something goes wrong. Every paper we sit for, ends up having at least two merit lists. So you study for the exams for a year, then for a year or two you keep waiting for the vacancies to be announced. The administration is totally useless in getting these processes in order, especially the UP administration.”
Hari Shankar from Khova Mandi, Mahoba expresses his disappointment due to the lack of availability of any job opportunities. “I cannot seem to find a job anywhere. I keep wandering about aimlessly. I’m always worried about how I’ll earn a livelihood and feed myself and my family. It’s a struggle to make ends meet and I’m managing somehow. I get work for 15 days and then I am unemployed again. Whenever I have work, I am happy and engaged but when I don’t have work, then I have a lot of stress.”
Another student, Anil Kumar from ITI Mahoba, told us that he feels brain dead when it comes to a situation like the one mentioned above. “But whenever I’m worried about something, my parents support me and tell me that everything will work out. They tell me to keep studying and inspire me to work hard. I have hopes of getting a job sometime in the future. Sometimes I feel that studying is of no use and I should just try and find a job, but my professors tell me that studying is important and will get me places.”
According to a report by the World Health Organisation, every one in five women and one in twelve men suffer mental health issues, caused by personal struggles. In India as around 50% of the population is struggling with at least one severe mental health issue, making it the most depressed country in the world. Like Mukesh Rajput, Chandan also laughed off the question-suggestion of approaching a doctor or counsellor – with no prospects of work, who can afford to go to a doctor! And free government healthcare for depression – whoever heard of that!
Obviously, cumulative economic strife in southern and eastern UP, and the narrowing of options, where the country at large seems to be bursting with entrepreneurial spirit and possibility, contribute directly to the mental health of young people here. The unavailability of many professional doctors and counsellors and the expensive nature of these appointments, are institutional obstacles in the process of getting treated for these issues. Government hospitals too, are incompetent and often times doctors never arrive on time. Young people are not aware of the entitlements within the National Rural Health Mission for adolescent counselling, or the provision of Adolescent Friendly Healthcare clinics – even though these are meant to be complemented with a range of outreach activities which help young people confront sexual and reproductive, as well as mental health issues they may face as they grow.
We spoke to the CMO of district Mahoba regarding the availability of counsellors and doctors. “All cases pertaining to mental health issues come to the Mental Wing and the people are counselled. We have all government officials here who come and attend to people and also go out onto the field and hold camps. We have all kinds of cases of depression, anxiety, psychosis, schizophrenia etc and we treat them with utmost care and responsibility” she says.