by Dr. Susan Matthew
CHEMBUR-MUMBAI, DECEMBER 3, 2014: As a sequel to the series of 'teachers training programmes in identification and prevention of substance abuse among school children in Mumbai' initiated by the Don Bosco Research Centre (DBRC), a one day training programme was organized jointly by DBRC and Sree Narayana Guru (SNG) B. Ed College, Chembur, on November 29, 2014 for the principals and teachers of Municipal Schools in M ward in 'Identification and prevention of substance abuse among school children'.
More than 50 participants from Municipal schools across M ward attended the training. Dr. Anna Fernandes, the principal of the B. Ed College welcomed the gathering followed by lighting of the lamp and a prayer song. Mrs. Dakshayani Madangopal, CEO (DBRC) spoke about the rationale behind this initiative. Two representatives of the Sree Narayana Guru Mandira Samiti, Shri O.K. Prasad and Shri Salim Kumar graced the occasion. Prior to the commencement of the programme, pre-workshop evaluation forms were distributed among the participants to assess the teachers' level of knowledge on substance abuse.
Speaking on the prevalence, types, reasons, signs, symptoms and consequences of substance abuse among children, Ms. Sonali Gupta, clinical psychologist and a counsellor for students, pointed out that currently, the vulnerability to substance addiction started at an early age. It was therefore important to initiate talks about the ill- effects of substance abuse at a younger age at homes as well as in schools before it became too late. Consumption of drugs among children included common cough syrup, eraser fluids, petroleum products, paint thinners or removers, dry-cleaning fluids, gasoline, glue etc.
Some of the reasons for children taking to drugs were to experience pleasure, reduce academic stress, peer influence, loneliness, social exclusion, lack of love and care and living with family of addicts. Signs and symptoms displayed were those of aggressive behaviour, poor academic performance and withdrawal from everyone. Consequences of substance abuse could lead to physical, psychological, neurological, emotional and interpersonal disorders eventually calling for medical help.
Talking on the preventive aspects, Mr. Swapnil Pange, psychologist and counsellor at Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), stressed the importance of not labelling the children, open communication, regular interaction, patience, and helping children to develop coping mechanisms to deal with academic stress. Replying to a participant's viewpoint that unless the Government took stern action to deal with drug trafficking and initiated a movement to shut down drug manufacturing companies and various outlets selling drugs, the menace of substance abuse would continue to prevail, Mr. Swapnil responded that it was more important for teachers to educate and enable the children to think independently and to say `NO ' to substance abuse rather than blame the government.
One cannot wait for the system to change but must act in a timely manner to help the children to stay away from drugs at any cost. In order to gauge the understanding acquired by the participants, a quiz was conducted by Mrs. Hemalatha Anilkumar, consultant with DBRC and Mrs. Dakshayani Madangopal at the end of the programme. This interactive session stimulated quick responses from the participants. Post workshop feedback was also collected from the participants before the programme wound up with tea at 4 p.m.