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A close connection

  • Published at 12:30 pm July 26th, 2017
  • Last updated at 10:35 am July 30th, 2017

My cousin Miraz, 18, went into severe depression after his HSC result.

While all his friends were celebrating the victory of GPA 5s, he felt like the lone soldier defeated in battle. He had no one to turn to; his parents were grieving more than him, his teachers were devastated at the news, his friends … well, they were celebrating, and his girlfriend had already broken up with him.

It was just matter of days when we heard the news: He chose an overdose of sleeping pills to end his misery once and for all.

I still remember the difficult transition my life was going through when I entered high school. I barely hung out with friends, was going through my first break up, and my grades were plunging faster than a roller-coaster.

I knew I was going into severe depression, but could not talk to anyone about it. It felt like I had nowhere to go; life seemed meaningless.

After a few failed suicide attempts and rounds of trips to the therapist’s office, I finally came across a friend who helped me out of it. A relationship that made me believe that life was more meaningful than I had perceived.

Just because I was lucky enough to find a way doesn’t mean that most suffers of depression are. But could we design something that replaces those lucky moments with systemic results? After all, we cannot take luck for granted.

Whenever we are going through a rough patch, the most common human tendency is to look for a close connection. For the youth, the phases are more complex, considering the changes they go through both in body and mind. Hence the desire and need for a companion.

But due to lack of knowledge and experience, they are more vulnerable, and more likely to lean on the wrong, often harmful, people. These points-of-risks could be dealt with more effectively if youth were taught from an early age to invest in meaningful relationships, to remain hopeful when desired ones are not available, and to move away from toxic ones.

Think about what we teach our children at school. We teach them science, mathematics, literature, history and so many other areas of knowledge; extra-curriculars focusing on leadership and communication skills; life hacks to help you stay relevant to the changing needs of a competitive society.

But, somewhere along the line, we lose focus on how we can help them relate to the impact of all these on their personal relationships. How the art and science of practicing empathy can help them connect with parents more, and how it can have a positive impact on their future careers.

Or even, simply put, how to help them cope when they are going through a relationship crisis.

Whenever we are going through a rough patch, the most common human tendency is to look for a close connection

With the alarming rise in youth engagement in crimes such as rape and sexual exploitations in the country, one can easily point to a lack of proper education on healthy forms of sexual expression and experience. While many education systems worldwide are including sex education for young people, it would be more beneficial if we could emphasise the importance and necessity of healthy emotional connections from an early age.

What if we could build around a larger area of knowledge focusing on respect, and different forms of relationships, beyond human biology or safe intercourse? There is a possibility we could help them connect better with each other.

It is often a common assumption to draw a line between youth frustrations with lack of policies, productive engagement, job opportunities etc. The secret ingredient might lie in how they manage their relationships with each stakeholder in the scenario.

After all, the system can only do so much to offer solutions to ever-changing needs. But grit and resilience built into the early years of our human system can surely help to instill better coping mechanisms. Developing and maintaining positive relationships is a skill, whether personal or professional. It is high time we prioritised it in how we address these problems with institutionalised approaches, and how this can be built into our education system.

With the rise of virtual engagement platforms which allow people to interact in greater numbers and with greater speed than ever before, it is important more than ever that we recognise the crucial role relationships play throughout our lives, particularly for youngsters.

Let us not build a young generation who are ready to compete with robots, but not ready to accept who they are.

Riffat Ashrafee is an Assistant Manager at BRAC Social Innovation Lab.

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