Psychologist Dr Margaret Nakhid-Chatoor is concerned that too many students are not taught that it is “okay to fail or fall."
She told students of St Joseph's Convent in Port of Spain, that at a conference in the USA last year, one of her counterparts reported that high-achieving Caribbean students were more at risk of being socially isolated and more prone to chronic depression.
Nakhid-Chatoor, president of the TT Association of Psychologists, said what has been a concern to her over the last decade, is that rates of mental illness are rising in teenagers and young adults aged 14-22. She said studies show that chronic loneliness, feeling misunderstood and failure in school have been the primary triggers leading to suicidal thoughts and then suicide.
“Many of you have not been taught that it is okay to fail, okay to fall. That is part of the strength that you acquire. Getting up again reaffirms the emotional resilience that you build up over the course of your life.”
Nakhid-Chatoor was speaking at an awards function at the school’s chapel on Pembroke Street. She told students their self-esteem is made up of two components. “The what of how you are – that is, your intelligence quotient (IQ) – what you achieved. And secondly, the who of how are you – your emotional quotient (EQ) – your desire to help others.
“As you can imagine, when there is no balance between these two components, or one severely outweighs the other, many problems can arise.”
Nakhid-Chatoor said there are many people with high IQs, wealthy, and acclaimed by many, but who are unhappy. Good mental health, she said, and high self esteem require having a social contract with people.
“It is the perception that you are cared for, that you have assistance available from other people in your life and that you are a part of a supportive network and relationships.”
Turning to teachers and parents, Nakhid-Chatoor asked, "Have you taught these teenagers and young adults about being emotionally resilient and healthy so that they can laugh at the day to come and face their future without fear?”
Nakhid-Chatoor said, in today’s world people spend more time taking care of their bodies and about how they look rather than attending also to their psychological health. She said, on a global scale people ignore the psychological injuries that wound them from time to time, such as failure, rejection or loneliness.
“These are factors which can impact your lives in dramatic ways. Chronic loneliness happens over a period of time, usually accompanied by feelings of inadequacy, poor self esteem and self-loathing. It distorts your perceptions and makes you believe that those people in your lives are doing less for you than they actually do.”
Nakhid-Chatoor urged students to let themselves experience the uneasiness, make an effort to connect with others, and practise self-compassion and self-regulation.
Anna Pounder, principal of the school, called on students to lay a foundation of sound moral values and virtues to build temperance, prudence and fortitude later on in life.
She said they should strive not only to win awards, but to be a person of good character with integrity, honesty and piety.
"You can walk with dignity, be happy and content. Sacrifice and delayed gratification in these youthful years will bring you joy and fulfilment in years to come.
"Indeed, SJC PoS continues to be in the top four schools in the country and the best performing school in Port of Spain and environs with 31 scholarships, 16 Open and 15 Additional.”
Pounder said the school continues to get scholarships in business, maths, science, creative arts, environmental science and languages. She said the school also has several regional awards, six top ten placings in CSEC and 16 top ten placings in CAPE.
She attributed this success to, apart from focusing on academic results, the holistic development of students.