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An abusive, compelling and dominating behavior in a dating relationship among the teenage youngsters is termed as dating violence. Students susceptible to dating violence suffer greatly in terms of their academic performance, social and extra-curricular activities. They may show poor results and isolate themselves from colleagues and friends. They may show lack of interest in extra-curricular activities. All these activities are results of poor mental health. Such students have a profound effect on their psyche due to being exposed to some kind of in-home violence in their childhood. They exhibit anger management disorders and have a history of aggressive or fighting attitude. An even greater consequence of dating violence may be suicides (Maryland School Mental Health Alliance).
There may be several categories in dating violence like sexual, emotional, psychological or electronic. Physical violence may involve pushing, beating or grabbing one’s partner. Psychological violence comprises of controlling behaviors like preventing him or her to involve with other people while electronic violence is the name-calling or bullying through texting.
A latest survey has revealed that psychological and physical abuse is a common aspect of dating among the American youngsters. Among 1400 seventh grade students being interviewed by the researchers showed that about 37% of 11-14 year olds had been susceptible to some type of psychological violence while almost one sixth had experienced physical violence during an on-going relationship. About three-fourth of students had a boyfriend or a girlfriend during their middle school. The survey provided a number of conditions related to dating violence. Among the students being surveyed, there was a large number who believed that it is fine to hit one’s girlfriend. A moderate number of them had undergone sexual harassment through physical or verbal means by touching in a wrong way or by joking (Dating Violence Common by 7th Grade).
However, teenage dating violence is not restricted to westernized and industrialized countries. A study carried out on international level revealed that dating violence extended among males and females was high in all the countries under study. Dating violence was studied through a number of variables like assaulting a partner, depression, injury and sexual coercion. The behavioral acts that were reported in the study were hitting partner, pulling his/her arm or hair, using weapons to harm, burning him/her on purpose, forcing him/her on doing sex when he/she does not intend to do so etc. The rate of physical assault was higher in Asia, while it was significantly lower in New Zealand and Australia while victims of sexual coercion were greater in Canada and the United States (Chang et al.)
Significance of Mental Health
Mental health is a state of efficient performance of brain contributing to productive activities, healthy relationships with people and adaptability to changes and dealing with challenges in a better way. Mental disorders are considered to be health conditions that are attributed by mood swings related to stress or decreased functioning of brain. Mental disorders may lead to diverse complication which includes pain, disability or death. Mental illness is a broader term encompassing all the identifiable mental disorders.
Mental disorders are a major contributor towards disability. The disease burden because of mental illness is the greatest among all diseases. National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) has reported that approximately 13 million American adults suffer from serious deliberating mental illnesses. Mental disorders contribute to 25% loss of life time through disability and premature mortality and in Canada and United States; they are leading cause of disability. Suicide is the 11th most dominant cause of death in America where it takes away almost 30,000 Americans.
There is a strong correlation between mental and physical health. A good mind leads to good health. Ability of people to engage in health promoting activities reduces as a result of mental illnesses like depression and anxiety (Mental Health and Mental Disorders).
Thus, it is really important to deal with mental health problems arising as a result of dating violence because in severe cases it may lead one to self-harm or even suicidal attempts. Aggression personality disorders are a common phenomenon with the victims of dating violence which involves increased expression of anger, anti-social behavior and self-harm personality disorder etc. About 20% of suicidal persons have a history of violence. Other than that, the victims of dating violence are more likely towards the use of drugs, alcohol and smoking which further deteriorates mental health. Also, there is a trend of using laxatives, dieting pills, fasting and binge eating for weight management among such individuals which lead to eating disorders. Also there is an increased risk of getting infected with sexually transmitted diseases like HIV because the individuals may fear the use of condom because of the violent partner and unprotected sex may lead to such diseases (Teen dating violence). Thus, to alleviate such symptoms and personality disorders among such people and other health associated risks, a mental health policy is demanded.
Mental Health Policies Followed around the world
A number of school and community based programs are operating. Most common are the primary prevention programs that aim at preventing abuse before it starts. The program emphasizes upon providing clear knowledge and suitable behaviors regarding the dating abuse. Its curriculum is based upon increasing awareness of dating violence, fighting violence beliefs, encourage help seeking and skill development in order to improve the communication strategies and management of conflicts (Teen dating violence-awareness and prevention). Such initiatives may lead to improvement of mental health.
Other than program initiatives, there has been a limited reporting in the legal arena for reforms of legislative and judicial nature in dating violence. Only a small number of teen victims knock the door of law to seek legal remedies like protection orders against dating partners who are abusive. The local anti-violence non-profit organization “Between Friends” in Chicago is striving to offer counseling, legal aid and health-care awareness within the city to fight domestic violence (U.S. high schools unequipped). Novel ways are devised by the White House and Vice president’s office in order to prevent dating violence at the initial stages by providing assistance to young men for ending up violence. The Office of Adolescent Health’s Pregnancy Assistance fund grants aims at improving services for the pregnant teens that are experiencing or at the stake of sexual or any other type of violence (Teen dating violence-awareness and prevention).
Safe dates is a curriculum designed for high school and middle school students which is organized in a set of 10 sessions, each of which is almost of 50 minutes. This curriculum gives definitions on caring and sound relationships and also provides information on the dating abuse regarding its causes and effects. It teaches the students how to assist a friend who has an abusive dating partner. It describes the methods in which gender stereotypes affect dating relationships and explains in what ways sexual assault can be prevented. The curriculum comprises of a play on dating violence, poster presentation, and source material for parents and a general outline for teachers (Teen dating violence as a public health issue).
My mental health policy proposal
In my understanding, a mental health policy should first of all address the psychology of the middle and high school students. There should be a compulsory subject on issues related to dating violence. The teachers should observe the students keenly. If the psychological problems are observed in some students, they should be provided counseling in the school.
Parents should also play an important role in dealing with dating violence. They should develop a strong bonding with the children so that they could share what is going on in their life. Also, the parents can then help them coping with their particular situations through their own life’s experiences.
The peers are most aware of dating violence. So the peer groups should be educated about the negative and ill effects of it so that they can assist their friend who is experiencing it.
The legislative body on part of dating violence should become more active and efficient in resolving the dating violence cases and there should be a system of penalties and punishment to those who commit this crime.
Dating violence is a serious and wide spread problem worldwide. Other than violating the human rights, it affects the physical, sexual, reproductive, mental, emotional and social welfare of individuals and families. Physical injury, abortion, sexually transmitted infections, mental disorders like aggression, anxiety and depression are the immediate and long term health effects associated with sating violence. Other than that, use of illicit drugs and smoking are very frequent among the victims of dating violence. A number of initiatives are being under taken by the U.S. government in order to eradicate this issue from the general population. The most important is the mental health policy that aims at improving the mental health of the susceptible individuals that in turn improves their physical health. With a healthy psychology, they can deal with life in a suitable way and serve their country as effective citizens.
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