"What is strange is that we don't have more children coming to us": Child psychiatry and scholastic pressure in Kolkata
How do child psychiatrists in Kolkata reflect on the links between scholastic pressure and rising rates of mental illness? As is known from many ethnographic studies, giving one's child a "top" education is a central concern of Indian parents today, especially among the middle classes. Sending one's child to preschools and making them take several hours of private tuitions every day has become markers of "good parenting." To start children as early as possible and to reduce "useless" free time to a minimum puts enormous scholastic pressure on children. Even cross-country comparisons flag up that Indian children are made to study harder and earlier than in most other countries. This paper analyzes how child psychiatrists in Kolkata experience the consequences of parents' high expectations for scholastic success onto children's mental health. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), "school refusal," depression, and suicidal tendencies are the most prominent mental illnesses that the psychiatrists trace back to excessively competitive education. The paper further discusses how Kolkata psychiatrists evaluate possibilities of pharmacological interventions for child patients. While they acknowledge that drug therapies can have many adverse side effects, they also feel compelled to intervene as early and as quickly as possible. Based on a philosophy that prefers to "nip it in the bud," psychopharmaceuticals are extensively used.
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