It is a line bursting with disturbing irony: that for a world that puts knowledge on a pedestal more than ever, people remain frightfully, arrogantly uninformed about giant plagues like mental illness. Alarmingly, the cynical resistance is most often put forward by adults. Teenagers are no strangers to mental disorders, or the apathy that comes with it. Teenage years mark a time of shattering physical and emotional upheaval, which increasingly jeopardizes their mental health. One in every three adolescents suffers from some mental condition, be it anxiety, depression or schizophrenia. Yet, their reports are few and far between. It is a no-brainer why. The quest for success today is narrowed down to a formulaic, high pressure routine. Schools demand impeccable performances, and it puts a great deal of strain upon students. It has so been floated as a norm. Teenagers have grown so accustomed to immense stress that they shrug it off as merely a petty trouble. The sardonic attitude of adults and the society makes it no easier. Who do you blame? Of course, it is easy for everyone to say it is the child’s fault, for lack of attention to their own well being. Is it judicious to? Can you really blame that child when they struggle to keep abreast and take on more activities every single day; so that they can obtain admission into an ivy or elite college; so that they are not labelled as a failure and a let down by family and society? Let us analyse the last three years of schooling within a typical Pakistani high school to bring perspective.

A child enters his final year of O Levels, and everyone naturally starts nagging him about how these exams are so crucial to his entire life choices. And after this, he faces the very same nagging when he enters his A levels. Does anyone tell the child that it is perfectly acceptable to pull up short; that he must perform his best; that if he cannot excel, it is absolutely understandable? No one impresses this upon the kids. They are on their own to unearth that. The stress barely ends there. More truth-bombs land in the manifestation of SATs and AS Level exams. Along with that, the constant pressure of maintaining your co-curricular activities persists, so that the university can see that you’ve taken a ‘rigorous course’. What I press, is the point of this rigorous course if it means demeaning yourself, sacrificing your well-being, ruining your sleep schedule and diminishing any hopes of relishing quality family time? When it amounts to this mania, is it really worth it? Hold a torch up to it. A child brooks a gruelling eight hours at school, comes home at 5pm every day, just to go on and revise his notes of that particular day till 10pm, before moving onto his homework. The child does not ever look forward to a weekend because he is au courant with the monotony of one competition or another so that his CV may bear to look above average. When it breaks down to this mania, is it all really worth it? Our society locks it down as a categorical, ringing yes. If they could have coped, what makes children today any different? Why must these children be coddled? What people in our society fail to understand is that they indeed have not gone through it. They have not gone through the torture of not being able to spend time with family when you want to, only to receive disappointment for not being able to juggle it. They have not gone through the concept of tackling the SATs whilst managing 5 A Level subjects (a crippling number but a college would prefer it so that’s that). This hypocrisy and mindset of the elders within our society is a cardinal reason adolescents suffer chilling magnitudes of trauma and stress. When the child fails to reap any appreciation or encouragement upon success, he feels isolated. He loses incentive to perform better and he loses hope. Is this really the world that our elders lived in? The answer can never be in the affirmative, because quite simply, had they gone through it all, they would be a lot more sympathetic towards the plight of today’s youngsters. Mental illness, consequently, is a far stretch from defeat when it is not even acknowledged. In the end, it doesn’t matter if our kids are alright, as long as they are all right.