Olympian Dutee Chand has said that “she had been a victim of ragging by seniors during her stay at the Sports Hostel in Bhubaneswar from 2006-08.” The sprinter’s disclosure comes after college student allegedly died by suicide at her hostel after being ragged.

“Didis (seniors) used to force me to massage their bodies and wash their clothes at the Sports Hostel,” news agency PTI quoted Chand.

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Ragging, that is strictly prohibited, not only impacts mental health but has many other long-term physiological affects as well, say experts.

Bullying is considered to be one of the most significant factors for long term mental health problems. Ragging is a variant of bullying. Whether it is physical or verbal , you are being mocked at, made fun at, that to in a place which should be your safe place, where you go for education, and where you have your peer community,” Dr Samir Parikh, director, mental health and behavioural sciences, Fortis Healthcare told indianexpress.com.

Agreed Dr Shruti Sharma, Assistant Professor, Department of Psychiatry, Sharda Hospital, Greater Noida, and said the experience of children who have grown up in a sheltered environment “and are exposed to the world with ragging, can be traumatising.”

A student walks past an anti-ragging poster in Delhi University on Tuesday. (Source: Express photo by Oinam Anand)

“It affects self esteem, confidence and self respect. If the stress continues for a prolonged time it develop into anxiety and depression,” she added.

Listing the harmful effects it can have on a person, Dr Sharma said people may resort to drugs, smoking, and even alcohol to deal with the situation. “Many also develop sleep problems and social phobia,” she said, pointing out that the impact may vary as it depends on the kind of experience a person has and the resources they use to cope up.

“Yes. If the nature of ragging has been traumatic the individual may show signs of developing post traumatic stress disorder. The person may also struggle with relationships because of trust issues,” Dr Parikh said.

Impact on physical health

Experts say that disturbed mental health can also affect the physical health of an individual. “Mental health can affect immunity, making a person prone to infections. Our gastrointestinal system and skin are also very sensitive to our mental health condition,” Dr Sharma added.

How to deal with it?

Experts believe that there should be zero-tolerance policy for ragging everywhere.

Dr Sharma said that if parents notice that their child is not keeping well and feels irritable, then they should step in. “Seeking help is always a good thing. Mental health workers can help you with coping mechanisms and stress management,” she added. She emphasised on building a conducive environment for children to talk about their experiences openly.

Agreed Dr Pallavi Walia, a psychologist, and suggested that “students who have suffered ragging should meet a college counselor or nearby psychologist.” She also emphasised the importance of “trauma-informed learning” which can help teachers in understanding the developmental, emotional, and social challenges that students who are impacted by trauma, face at school.

“While teachers are not mental health professionals, trauma-informed learning trains teachers in therapeutic approaches that can be woven into the classroom to redress the delayed development, underdeveloped neural pathways, and over-regulated nervous systems that students experience as a result of trauma,” she added.

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