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Monday, March 27, 2023

Pakistan’s growing cases of Hikikomori

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Nabya Shahid |

Last summer, on my visit to Nanu’s in Lahore, I met this chirpy little boy who wanted to explore the world. He was a blooming flower who wanted to add colors to the world, yet, only to be dried up!

Anzal was friendly, socializing, and a very lively young soul. Everyone was his friend. A year later I met him again but this time I was meeting a different boy. His appearance showed as he had been plucked out very ruthlessly. Silence became his lifestyle. He locked himself up in his room. It was a shock for me learning how our youth is withdrawing from the world; developing introvert tendencies. By the word introvert, I do not intend to give a negative notation of the personality type. I certainly do not refer to avoiding friends or not talking to anybody. I think this is where we fall back, we analyze this inner condition by the fake appearance our child has put up to avoid our reactions or constant nag.

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“Acha khasa hus bol rha hai, theek thaak hai bilkul”

“Hasian nahi band horahi eeski…khush hai wo”

This is exactly where we lack. We see what they want us to see and don’t try to peek into the soul of our child – subliminal is to be unveiled.

I admit that there was a time in my life which was very tough. It’s hard to describe the stress verbally. Where you are calm on the external surface, but from the inside, it’s like a demon in your stomach trying to consume you. I deal with these emotions on my own I don’t want to make it someone else’s problem.

Unfortunately, statistics do not paint a pretty picture when it comes to teens and their mental health.

In 2015 about 3 million teens ages 12 to 17 had at least one major depressive episode in the past year, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

While parenting teens, you must know that most of the college students die of committing suicide and the major reason behind the suicide is depression and anxiety. If you feel that your teens are facing peer pressure; a pressure from the external world to be the one they (our society) want them to be then you must talk to them about it before it gets too late, if goes unchecked. Try to boost their confidence and self-esteem by giving them some space. They are not children anymore. Let them make decisions, so they don’t feel being controlled, but do not forget to guide and support them. If they want a strange haircut or some ‘trendy’ clothing, then let them have it instead of getting angry. Teens do ridiculous things just to fit in and to get appreciation from peers. You have to make them understand that not everything is worth trying and not every failure is deteriorating. Also give them confidence so that they may not indulge themselves in stupid activities like drugs, just to boost their self-esteem.

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About 30% of girls and 20% of boys have had an anxiety disorder, according to the data from the National Institute of Mental Health.

A research report from Mission Australia about mental health and stress notes that 1 out of 4 Australian teenagers are going through serious mental illness.

According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the US nearly 20% of teens seriously consider suicide each year and 1 out of 12 each year attempts suicide.

The fake smile that they wear gives them a momentary escape from the anxiety that they are fighting constantly, about their image, about their future, about their relationships, about everything that is bothering them.

I personally feel the pressure of being accepted or the fear of isolation and rejection makes us fragile which even our personality shows, our gait, our words, our perceptions all get shook resulting in losing one’s own identity.

I remember it was one sunny evening my father told me over a cup of hot chai …

He asked, “Nabya! Do you know how this world runs?”

I asked, “How?”

He said, “With confidence, with confidence, you can conquer the world.” 

Learn to say no, it will solve half of your problems.

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Set certain standards and make it clear to friends that you will not break them. Why I said your friends because with friends you are actually willing to give up your limits, your standards, to hold on to that precious relationship but we must learn to balance out between standards and friendship. Do not let friends impose their decisions on you because the most influential person in your life is a friend. You probably prioritize them more than your family, which also sometimes leads to hikikomori because nothing is permanent in this world not even your own life but maybe we give importance to few relations more than that is required. I’m not saying you leave your friends or stop trusting them, do listen to your friends’ advice and suggestions, but do what you feel is best for you.

Adolescents today have a reputation for being more fragile; less resilient and more overwhelmed than their parents were when they were growing up.

Sometimes they’re called spoiled but a closer look paints a far more heartbreaking picture of why young people are suffering. According to several reports, anxiety and depression in youngsters have been on the rise since 2012.

Family financial stress can exacerbate these issues, and studies show that girls are at more risk than boys.

Frustration grows gradually and soon everything starts to look meaningless leading to dissatisfaction, constant job hopping, social dispatch, frustration and ultimately lockdown.

It is essential to pay attention to what your child is doing and what he is speaking. Don’t ignore anything he said “just like that” because there is nothing said without a reason, pay attention to your child’s changed behavior or something unusual he does. Cling to his behavior, spend time with him to understand what he is saying or was trying to say but didn’t say. Observe this is the only way you can save your youth from withdrawing from the world.

Nabya Shahid is currently working as Copywriter at HUM News. Prior to this, she completed an internship in Publication and Advertising at Subway in Pennsylvania US. She has also worked with Army Welfare Trust. She has been an RJ at Fatima Jinnah University’s radio channel, where she studied Media and Communication. She also worked as an editor of her university’s magazine. She has been published in Daily Times and Fortress Square Mall Magazine. Her interests include reading and writing about social issues.