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An Online Game Is Turning Into An Obsession That Is Keeping Gujarat’s Psychiatrists Busy

-Parth Shashtri

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Imagine you are on a desolate island — which has a stock of arms and ammunition, medical kits, and power packs — along with 99 others. In a matter of about half an hour, you have to find resources to stay alive and keep inching towards the ever-shrinking ‘safe zone’.

Your aim is to beat other players to it.

The bloody climax sees only one person or team emerging victorious, all for ‘Winner Winner Chicken Dinner’ reward!

The PlayerUnknown’s BattleGrounds (PUBG) on Google Playstore has recorded over 100 million (10 crore) downloads ever since its launch last year and India is among the top countries in terms of individual and group players. The PUBG fever has also taken hold of Gujarat, with thousands of young people spending hours together for that one shot at glory as top guns.

But the online immersive game — following the release of the battle royale format which amalgamates elements of exploration, team building, survival and fight till the last man/woman standing — has now started affecting players mentally and physically. In a recent case, a 25-year-old man attacked his parents for not allowing him to play PUBG. In another case, a class XII student in Surat started throwing things at his family members when his father switched the Wi-Fi off so that he could prepare for board exams.

What makes the game so addictive? Dr Hansal Bhachech, an Ahmedabad psychiatrist, said that every game design works on the principle of reward system. “The reward stimulates the person to turn to that addiction again and again as it releases dopamine, giving the person a temporary ‘high’,” he said. “Thus, emerging as a winner can give the same kick to a player that an addict finds from liquor, contraband, or tobacco. We find the profiles of the patients —we get one every two days, approximately — similar, they suffer from self-image problems in real life and chase virtual glory.”

But what sets PUBG apart from games of earlier generations is that it has no end, Bhachech said. “Earlier, the player would get the ultimate satisfaction when he/she encountered the ‘Game Over’ message on the screen,” he said. “The new games are based on missions and have no definite end, prompting players to return to the battleground time and again.”

Peer pressure also plays a part. Poonam Devlal, a child psychologist in Vadodara, said that impressionable teens observe their parents, family members, or peers playing mobile games and start exploring the games out of curiosity and then get hooked to them. “They want to be part of the cool crowd for sort of social approval,” she said.

“Over the past couple of years, there has been an exponential rise in the easy availability of digital devices,” said Dr Kamlesh Dave, a psychiatrist at New Civil Hospital, Surat. A Rajkot psychiatrist, Dr Chetan Hansaliya, agreed.

“Teens are now demanding expensive phones with better RAMs to play online games,” he said. “The repercussions are manifold. In a recent case, an engineering student had to take a drop after he lost nearly two months of study because he was obsessed with PUBG. We also see a rise in violent behavior and the growing tendency to lie to parents.” Social isolation is aggravated as more and more hours are spent online, he said.

PUBG problems have prompted authorities to act. The Gujarat Secondary Education Board (GSEB) has already issued an advisory to schools to create awareness about gaming addiction. Prof Navin Sheth, the vicechancellor of Gujarat Technological University, said that the university has started an outreach programme for state schools along with Ahmedabad Police’s cyber cell to counsel teens to seek gaming de-addiction. “We have already reached out to more than 50 schools so far and more schools will soon be covered,” he said.

(With inputs from Ashish Chauhan & Bharat Yagnik, Ahmedabad; Yagnesh Mehta, Surat; Tushar Tere, Vadodara; and Nimesh Khakhariya, Rajkot)

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Posted by on February 24, 2019 in Interviews


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Suicide cases in Gujarat on the rise – Inputs in DNA

Suicide cases in Gujarat on the rise, reveals Directorate of Forensic Sciences data

Data received from the Directorate of Forensic Sciences (DFS) have revealed that suicide cases in the state are on the rise. As per the number of suicide cases confirmed by the DFS, which deals with authenticating the handwriting in the suicide notes, as compared to previous years, suicide cases are increasing.

As against in 2016 and 2017, 576 and 582 cases were confirmed by FSL respectively, whereas 2018 recorded 338 cases in a mere six months. Sources have said the number is likely to double in the coming months.

Officials at forensic laboratory said that predominantly, suicide letters are the maximum that come to the laboratory. Also, while there maybe thousands of cases that arrive, FSL maintains a record of only those which are confirmed.

A source said, “Many times we get a suicide note but if we find the handwritings not matching, our report says it does not match. In such a case, the investigating officer then digs deep and eventually detects a murder. Also not all cases reach FSL.”

As per the data tabled at state legislative Assembly, nearly 792 suicide cases were reported from the city in 2016 whereas 813 cases were reported in 2017.

In terms of the documents division that scans the suicide notes, 101, 110 and 119 cases were found in 2015, 2016 and 2017, respectively.

Commenting on the issue, Dr Hansal Bhachech, consulting psychiatrist, said, “Increase in suicide cases may be directly related to the frustrations creeping in common people. Chief reasons for frustrations are increased cost and reduced ease of living, increasing stresses of daily life, costly and uncertain educational system, being intolerant, negativity in society in form of crimes, frauds, depression and so on. Only thing left for us as a mechanism to fight frustrations is by increasing our stress fighting capacity by physical exercise, yoga, meditation.”

He further added, “Staying away from negative news and negative people also helps a lot. These days, youth, especially need to remain socially active, not on social media but connecting with people virtually. In olden days, these incidents were quite less as loneliness was not there.”


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Posted by on August 7, 2018 in Interviews


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Inputs in Times of India – My kid is a midnight sneaky snacker – Late-Night Eating Causes Multiple Disorders

My kid is a midnight sneaky snacker

Late-Night Eating Causes Multiple Disorders

Parth Shashtri


Parents of 16-year old Amit Chavda (name changed) were worried by his sudden weight gain and complete reversal of sleeping habits. Amit used to keep awake at night – often bingewatching films or shows on his tablet to ‘exhaust the data pack for the day’ – and sleep during the daytime. When they consulted a psychiatrist after a recommendation, it was also revealed that the web series spree was often accompanied by equal helping of food.

As nocturnal activities of the teens and youths have increased exponentially thanks to digital devices, a number of city-based experts are flooded with queries to ‘cure’ the lifestyle and eating disorders. Experts said the trend is worrisome as it not only affects a person’s body clock severely, but also causes irreversible damage to the latter’s health in the long run.

Dr Hansal Bhachech, a city-based psychiatrist, said today’s young generation leads a stressful life and it gets reflected in their routine. “In one of my recent cases, a 24-year-old youth was referred to me. The youth had type II diabetes with abnormal blood sugar profile. While taking the history of the case, I got to know that his routine lacked any kind of exercise and he went to sleep very late. After counselling, we suggested him a corrective course to maintain his health,” he said.

He added that a number of factors – ranging from latenight football matches to tendency to work at night – are responsible for the change. “It has been observed that the food they eat when they get hungry post midnight is often unhealthy and the eating is unconscious. We advice such patients to ensure fixed timings for sleeping, keeping away from digital devices and maintain a routine, including exercise,” said Dr Bhachech, adding that most of the cases he has observed are in age group of 15 to 25 years.

Dr Rucha Mehta, a citybased endocrinologist, said in one of her recent cases, a teen had diabetes over 200 after which the parents sought counselling. “Childhood obesity is a phenomenon now and it can take epidemic proportions if right steps are not taken in time,” she said.

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Posted by on July 8, 2018 in Interviews


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Input in Times Of India – Viral rumours spur lynching sickness

TOI 2:7:2018

A woman was lynched in Vadaj on June 27 after a mob labelled her a ‘child-lifter’ and overturned the auto she and two other women were travelling in. It was neither the first nor the last gruesome assault of this nature in Gujarat. While a man with mental problems was beaten up near Waghodia in Vadodara district on Saturday, 14 cases had been recorded earlier in the vicinity of Surat, Rajkot, and Vadodara.

This spate of violence does not represent the first instance of mass hysteria in Gujarat in the recent past. The state has buzzed with rumours of thieves with supernatural powers and braid or hair chopping in 2015 and 2017 respectively.

Why do rumours haunt society periodically and take lives? According to experts, the key lies in the concoction of public perception and fear psychosis. The cases in the recent past have had the pan-India reach and impact. Indeed, ‘child-lifting’ rumours have claimed lives from Assam to Tamil Nadu, thanks to social media platforms such as WhatsApp.

Mahesh Tripathi, assistant professor of psychology with Raksha Shakti University (RSU), said that stopping the deadly spread of rumours requires dispelling myths and determining the roots of rumours. Tripathi was part of a team formed by the state police’s CID (crime) to probe the braid-chopping claims and had documented all the seven incidents that were reported to police.

“Visuals stay with us longer than the written word and videos circulated on different platforms are seen by thousands without fully understanding their implications,” he said. “When something matching the description happens in the viewer’s vicinity, the fear psychosis is projected onto strangers. In such a scenario, it is important to probe the very first incident thoroughly and dispel the myth. It can weaken similar claims.”

Social media plays a major role in controlling an individual’s emotions, said Dr Hansal Bhachech, an Ahmedabad psychiatrist. “A person is under a lot of duress these days. When a person is insecure, the suggestability is amplified and the usual independent thinking is clouded,” he said. “The repressed aggression gets manifested in mob action.”

Ashutosh Parmar, ACP, B Division, said that it is still being probed whether the main attackers in the Vadaj incident were motivated by any video or local rumours. “We are creating awareness about false claims to prevent any untoward incident,” he said. “When the rumours were at their peak in Gandhinagar district in 2015, we kept vigil alongside villagers and assured them of their safety.”


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Posted by on July 2, 2018 in Interviews


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My inputs in Ahmedabad Mirror about 12th results…

Ahmedabad Mirror 2018-05-09

Overreaction to poor results can scar your child for life

Parents, exercise restraint! With class 12 (science) results to be announced on Thursday, psychiatrists and counselors advise parents to avoid negative outbursts if their children fail to get expected results as that could add to the stress that the students would be facing at that time and in turn have lasting consequences.

The reactions of parents of science stream students tend to be more intense, say experts, cautioning that they may need to be a little more understanding of their children’s mental state at the time of results.

Police inspector Pravin Valera, liaison officer for Jeevan Aastha Helpline from Gandhinagar police, says that more than 50 of the 100 calls per day are from students who fear poor result in exams.

“These kids are mostly worried about how their parents will react. It is neither their future, nor their career nor even education they are worried about, but the expectation of their parents,” he adds.

Mirror had on May 3 reported that while half the students calling the helpline spoke of fear of results, others sought career counselling. Asked about students’ biggest fear, a counsellor at the helpline says, “Mostly it is the fear of parents commenting that they have nothing to show after wasted money on expensive schools and tuitions. Poor results can be extremely stressful and we have to counsel them to relax and talk to their parents instead of taking any rash step.”

Another counsellor points out parents feel their job is restricted to just paying for the children’s education. “But that is not so. On the other hand, students have this overarching need to please their parents and are very apprehensive about not living up to the high expectations thrust upon them. We tell them that their job is to work hard during the year and give their exams. They should not worry about anything else. But parents need counselling too,” the counsellor adds.

Nikita Bhatt, whose son Hemil will get his results on May 10, says, “I don’t believe that results dictate my son’s future. Obviously, as a parent, my expectations are high because I want him to go to a good college but that doesn’t mean I thrash him because of a result I cannot change.”

Lasting impact

According to Dr Hansal Bhachech, a parents’ aggressive reaction to results can have long-term effect on children. “Recently a 68-year-old man had come to consult me because he was still getting nightmares of failing in examinations,” he says.

Talking about the attitude of parents, Dr Bhachech adds, “We in Gujarat associate education very closely to money and success since we are a business community. Parents see a direct relation between bad results and financial burden as they will have to send their children to private institutions and pay more fees or donations.”

He advises parents to put across their disappointment in a subtle way and not to overreact to an extent that may cause long-term damage to children’s psyche and their bond with their parents.

“A bad reaction to results has a direct relation to performance anxiety in people throughout their lives,” he says.

Dr Prakash Mehta, HOD of psychiatry at Sola Civil Hospital, says, “Parents have unrealistic expectations and then get disappointed with results. Mostly, this leads to drastic reactions that end in anxiety, depression and lower confidence levels in students. In extreme cases, when children do not have the capacity to handle the double stress of failure as well as disappointing their parents, it may lead to suicidal tendencies.”

Must-do for parents
􀁺 Have realistic expectations
􀁺 Be prepared for poor result
􀁺 Counsel yourself to remain calm
􀁺 Do not react harshly to poor result
􀁺 Express disappointment tactfully
􀁺 Support children in times of failure

Dr.Hansal 2018-05-09

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Posted by on May 9, 2018 in Interviews


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70% of Amdavadis bribe their kids with chocos, gadget, toys – Inputs in DNA

Ahmedabad ranked lowest when it came to bribing their children with money
BRIBING, a new threat
  Tanushree Bhatia – 02 Apr 2018
dna 2:4:18


In a survey conducted by Early Childhood Association across five cities in the country, it was found that nearly 70 % parents from Ahmedabad bribe their child. While chocolates and toys dominated the list of top tools used to bribe children, 31% of parents also bribed the kids with technology and gadget time. Interestingly, of all the cities that were surveyed, Ahmedabad ranked the lowest when it came to bribing with money.

The survey was conducted with 15000 parents from Mumbai, Bengaluru, Ahmedabad, Pune and Chennai between age ranges 3 to 12 years between January and March. The results are indeed worrisome and it is time to educate parents about these methods.

Interestingly, 64% parents also make their child feel guilty by saying they are working to pay for their fees and only 11% parents agreed that they never make their child feel guilty. The result for others cities is 73% for Pune, 63% for Bengaluru, 61% for Chennai and 60% for Mumbai.

Commenting on the study, Swati Popat Vats, President, ECA said, “Daisy Irani, veteran actor, had recently confessed that she was raped at the age of 6 and had kept it a secret and did not share it with her parents. We started the survey when a lot of parents approached us when their child would hide many things from them.

That is when we realized that the threatening and the secret game starts from home itself. In many instances, parents threaten their children by saying if they do not agree with them then they will be sent to a hostel. Similarly, predators are misusing this fact and threaten children by saying that their mother will die or remain unhappy if they disclose the secret.

Bribing, threatening and telling kids to keep a secret are all traditionally rooted parenting styles, each generation experienced them as it is easy. The survey brought to light that children are made to feel guilty that their parents have to work to get good things like toys and school fees, this can have a tremendous impact on the guilt burden of the child and then when a pedophile threatens them that if you do not keep it a secret, I will hurt your parents. Another worrisome trend highlighted in the survey was that parents are using physical punishment for disciplining, most of the times in the heat of the moment and then regretting it and feeling guilty an trying to say sorry to the child. This teaches kids that adults can use physical force with them as long as they say sorry or bribe them later, Vats said.

A child psychiatrist Param Shukla recommends ‘token economy’ method to be adopted by parents. He says, “Token economy involves the process in which to get something, one needs to earn it. So parents should not offer something which is outrageous or very expensive. It should be age appropriate always. For example, for younger children, a hug means a lot whereas, for little older children, stationery or a book to read could be a way to incentify the children as this does not put any negative impact.”

“Parents bribe as they want to substitute their time and in order to not spend time with their children, they try to reward the child. While rewards always work when it comes to discipline, I feel that reward should always be delayed. If the reward is immediate, it becomes a bribe. For example, we used to get the reward only if we score good marks but it would be announced 8-9 months prior to the exam. We’d wait which would motivate us. However, if the reward is immediate, children start putting conditions, says consulting psychiatrist Hansal Bhachech.

Dr.Hansal Bhachech added, “Also, a reward should never be given to hide a secret as it will make them bargain and blackmail in future. One of the biggest concern and bribe today is gadgets. When my patients discuss their issues with me, they often hand over their cell phone to their child so that he/she does not disturb them. And by the time the child reaches 7-8 years of age, they get addicted to phones. The solution to this is that parents need to first understand that they need to spend time with their child and not get rid of their child only then things will change.”

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Posted by on April 2, 2018 in Interviews


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WORLD MENTAL HEALTH DAY – IS YOUR JOB KILLING YOU? – my inputs in Ahmedabad Mirror

World Mental Health Day
Oct 10 2017 : Mirror (Ahmedabad)
Professionals in the 20-30 age group and in their first or second jobs are the ones who struggle to deal with workplace stress and harbour suicidal thoughts, say suicide helpline and psychiatrists
Doctors have often warned of work-induced stress being a source of several ailments, but ambitious professionals often choose to ignore it. If you are among those who give low priority to work-life balance as you progress in your career, Mirror brings you some shocking statistics today on World Mental Health Day to keep you warned. About 13rd of those harbouring suicidal thoughts, around 18 per day, call up the State police’s suicide prevention helpline every day. Psychologists and psychiatrists also aver that they get up to 200 patients of job-related stress every month, mostly in the age group of 20-30, the early phase of their careers. Constant pressure to perform well and lack of job security are primary reasons for mental and physical health issues among these young professionals, say doctors.55 calls a day

Of the roughly1,650 calls a month -55 calls a day -the Jeevan Astha helpline receives from across the State, around 550 are from young professionals who feel too much pressure at work and harbour suicidal thoughts, said officials at the helpline.

A senior counsellor with the helpline, said, “The 15-30 age group is the most susceptible to suicidal thoughts and the one that reaches out for help.The three main reasons that lead to suicidal thoughts among them are problems in professional life, relationship problems and addiction.“

PI Pravin Valera of Gandhinagar Police, liaison officer for the helpline, said, “Young professionals and entrepreneurs are susceptible to suicidal thoughts.Recently, we got a call from a young man who was ready to jump into the river. He called the helpline and told the counsellor that his start-up had failed.He was in debt and was contemplating suicide. It took 6-7 counselling sessions to bring him back from the edge.“

Jeevan Astha is the suicide helpline managed by Vandrevala Foundation which works with the Gujarat Police’s Suraksha Setu programme to help people with problems they cannot deal with and dissuade them from committing suicides.

Confirming this trend, Dr Prakash Mehta, head of the psychiatry department at Ahmedabad Civil Hospital in Asarwa, said that almost one-third of patients coming for treatment in the age group of 25-35 years suffered from work related stress.

Dr Mehta said, “We get around 200 patients a month who come to get treated for job-related stress. These account for one-third of all patients who visit the department. This kind of stress is mostly prevalent among men.“

Even physical health affected

Speaking on the reasons for this stress, Dr Mehta expounded, “Constant pressure to perform well and lack of job security are primary reasons for mental and health issues among young professionals.“

The HOD warns that it is not only mental health, but also physical health that is affected by workplace stress. Dr Mehta said, “Blood pressure, diabetes and obesity among the young is constantly rising due to workplace stress.“

Dr Hansal Bhachech, a consultant psychiatrist, said that 30 per cent of the patients who visit him have stress due to work related issues.

Dr Bhachech said, “Around 30 per cent of my patients in the age group of 25-35 suffer from work-related stress. A further 30 per cent of the patients have problems which are accentuated by job stress. Patients with depression and anxiety suffer even more as work stress inundates them.“

Speaking on the progression of work stress on young professionals, Dr Bachech said the age group of 25-30 years suffers from teething problems at new work places and find it hard to adjust in a fast-paced environment different to that which they have had up until that point. The age group of 30-35 years suffers from performance-related stress and handling of juniors and teammates at work.

Problems and solutions

Human Resources Professional Haresh Chaturvedi spoke to Mirror about the most common problems and solutions related to stress experienced by employees.

Chaturvedi said, “Work-life balance is a must. Employees should work and enjoy it too. Employee engagement and counselling are also important. Stress is caused when the employee does not enjoy what heshe is doing.“

He added,“ In such cases the HR must counsel these employees and transfer them to departments where they start liking their work. We have to make employees mentally strong to negotiate stress. Days are not far when companies will require psychologists if counselling and proper mentoring is not carried out periodically.“


Posted by on October 10, 2017 in Interviews


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