Experts of UNICEF and a top health official of the West Bengal government on Saturday stressed the need for development of the mental health of children. They urged parents, doctors, medical students and policymakers to join hands to improve the cognitive capacity of children and help them become healthier and better citizens of the country.
“It is high time to look into the mental and psychological development of a child so that they can face the world with dignity. It will ensure them to become proper Indian citizens in future,” Dr Debasish Bhattacharya, Director of Health Services, West Bengal, said.
He was speaking at a symposium on “Promoting Early Childhood Development: from Systems to Caregivers”, jointly organised by UNICEF, Indian Academy of Paediatrics and an NGO Udbhaas-Nanritam.
From his experience of being associated with medical education in the state, Bhattacharya said parents and others in the society should try to build the personality of children from early childhood and develop their attitudes.
“This personality building must start at the very childhood. Children should be helped in developing good behaviour and attitudes which are lacking in society these days,” he said.
Dr Kaninika Mitra, Health Specialist of UNICEF in West Bengal, said that it was a priority to help children grow into better human beings.
Along with nutrition and healthcare, children need proper stimulation of the brain during the first three years of their lives, she said.
Parents have to tell them stories from pictures and take the child outside and get him or her acquainted with the outside world, according to the health expert.
“Children do not need expensive toys. Rather very easily available objects like leaves, stones, flowers, clouds, stars and the moon could be used to stimulate and develop their brain. Children’s level of intelligence and how they will become successful citizens depend on the stimulation of the emotions,” Mitra said.
UNICEF, which works with the state government to train people like ASHA or anganwadi workers to engage parents on early stimulation and children’s learning at home, organised the symposium to find out more ways to reach the policies of early childhood development to the grassroots level.