Topics for Panel Discussion

S. No.

Important Links
Growing up in a Powerful Digital World: Voices of Youth

7th September, 2021 Completed Successfully
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Youth & Drugs: Cleaning up the Toxicity

5th October, 2021
Completed Successfully
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Dealing With Emotional Crisis: Working Together With Young Minds

12th October, 2021
Completed Successfully
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Challenges of Higher Education: Transforming Responses in Post-Covid Times

Second Week of October (Tentative)
Cleaner and Greener Environment: Sustainable Pro-environment Youth behavior

Third Week of October (Tentative)

Panel Discussions Held

Dealing with Emotional Crisis: Working Together With Young Minds

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Another successful panel discussion planned as a pre-conference activity was conducted on “Dealing with Emotional Crisis: Working Together With Young Minds” on 12th October, 2021. This discussion was moderated by Ms. Saira Khan, working as Research Associate Cum Lecturer at National Institute of Psychology, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad.

Prof. Dr. Farah Malik (Institute of Applied Psychology, University of Punjab) started it off by talking with reference to pandemic situation where she highlighted the fact that as a result of restricted movements and lapse in communication many new challenges have emerged. Important one being the transformation of education from in person to online, jumping from one thing to another was common. This generated a lot “techno-stress”. For a collectivist society like Pakistan online mode was immensely disturbing especially the lack of face to face contact between mentor and student. The rising issues of loneliness, anxiety and depression and even suicide are on the rise and cannot be attributed to one factor alone rather the wider context of the pandemic situation is a major cause in the serious deteriorating mental health condition. She concluded that polices may be devised to continue education in an unhalted manner as reopening of educational intuitions is posing serious emotional difficulties for both educationists and students.

Dr. Manizeh Bano (Executive Director, Sahil) mentioned that few counseling services exist, even those that are available are not well known. Concentrated efforts are needed to raise awareness of the few facilities that are actually available. She specifically talked about an app named „Relax‟ that provides specific strategies to deal with the problems of anxiety and depression. She also configured that family is the first avenue where one can talk about problems, so parents need to be sensitized therefore imparting para-counseling skills to parents is important. Specifically parental availability is the protective factor to enhance the emotional wellbeing of the youth. She highlighted the importance of early and timely interventions as it can facilitate the process of dealing with difficult emotions.

Dr. Kamran Ahmad (Clinical Psychologist) put forth a very different point of view where he highlighted that looking at crisis with negative hue can limit our understanding. Experiencing emotional crisis is important as it maneuvers one‟s journey towards growth. Rather than avoiding or short-circuiting, it should be accepted because extreme passivity and going with the flow with eyes half open attitude is not healthy. This was explained with an example of the life of a butterfly that when it is about to emerge from the cocoon it struggles to spread its wings and if helped by anyone it would end up crawling on the floor. In connection to this he pointed out that most of the people in our society are only crawling because they are not aiming to accept the struggle as a process of growth. He also mentioned about romantic break ups which become troublesome with thoughts like “what good is life without her”. Since opening up through these emotions is required but is not readily acceptable in our society. It is thus important that we provide a safe and conducive environment and act as a facilitator and support system.

Dr. Humaira Jami (Assistant Professor, NIP) shared detailed empirical evidence from researches conducted by NIP. Her three main points were on cyber-bullying, career selection and sexual and reproductive health. With reference to cyber-bullying victimization and perpetration she said that there is a lack of willingness among young people to open up about their experiences in cyber-space before parents. This is because of diverse underlying reasons that might vary from victim blaming, breach of trust, fears of being misunderstood and the possible restriction from their devices. About career selection one would expect from young individuals to follow their own passion but the ground reality is that parental manipulation is the main thrust behind their career choices. While sharing the findings from a research project taken up by NIP in collaboration with OXFAM on sexual and reproductive health she said that parents are not willing to discuss about pubertal changes as it is considered a taboo. She also talked about food fussiness and moodiness among young individuals. She concluded that taking perspective of youth is important while planning future interventions.

Dr. Sana (NLP Master Coach) said that regardless of age everybody is a different type of learner. The important thing is how one speaks to oneself and the quality of internal dialogue. She also pointed out the misuse of labels for mental health issues which calls for understanding the language one is using. Through this focus we can communicate effectively and untangle the problems one is facing. Here NLP can be of help to reprogram the individual to better deal with conflicts with parents, peers and others.

Ms. Rabia Khan (Senior Manager Projects, ECI) defined young person “as one with new thought, one having strong spirit and vigor, and novelty.” She mentioned about various programs she has been a part of, from where she shared her experience of dealing with the emotional problems of the youth. She specified the pandemic scenario that caused the pop up of various kinds of challenges like work from home, rising incidence of abuse and sexual harassment from family members, breakups and suicidal attempts. On a positive note she added about life skills and entrepreneur training that opened up business avenues for many individuals. The post-Covid situation is demanding and poses serious threats to mental health of young people. Normalcy is also coming up with anxieties among young individuals who do not want to come out of their comfort zone. There is a need to look at how positive energies of the youth can be channelized. Our youth has tremendous potential; it‟s just about providing them the right guidance.

Ms. Shamyle Rizwan Khan (Psychotherapist) was part of the discussion as a voice of youth. In order to develop an improved perspective of dealing with emotional crisis she said that one needs to say that I am up to the crisis, I am dealing with the crisis and I am extracting meaning out of it. This will help the young mind to accept the emerging challenges with resilience. She mentioned that there is very little room for personhood in our society. Minimal encouragement and increased pressure from the surroundings are risk factors for the emotional wellbeing. Focus should be on vocabulary to communicate with our self. Facilitation can be done through psycho-education, resource banking, and support groups that should be run by young students not by faculty or experts as this would lead to both ownership and commitment to the cause. There are so many people who are looking around for validation on a national level but they are not sure of where to turn to and where to seek support from.

Panelists agreed on the fact that there is no such thing as a short term solution to the problem. Rather concentrated and collaborative efforts are needed to accept, address and initiate the process of change. All stakeholders including parents, teachers and students should be educated about the potentials to trigger change. We need to replace the prevailing culture of silence with a culture of sharing and non-judgmental attitude. As a majority of Pakistan‟s population comprises of young individuals it is imperative that they take responsibility and ownership for the challenges that they face and actively seek solutions to build a more resilient nation.
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Prepared By: (Panel Discussion Committee)
Ms. Saira Khan
Ms. Sara Imtiaz
Ms. Mariam Fateh

Youth and Drugs: Cleaning Up the Toxicity

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The second discussion of the series of panel discussion planned as a pre-conference activity was successfully conducted on “Youth and Drugs: Cleaning Up the Toxicity” on 5th October, 2021. This discussion was moderated by Dr. Irum Naqvi, working as Assistant Professor at National Institute of Psychology, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad.

In the opening statement Mr. Martin Peters (Group Program Director DARA Institute, Thailand) talked about the types and patterns of drug usage. Important thing is that drugs are being decriminalized in certain parts of the world. He focused on the fact that interventions related to drug addiction should need to be culturally tailored.

Mr. Farman Ali (Ex Program Manager, ANF) said the problem at hand is a significant one, which is common with reference to educational institutions. Students are falling prey to the menace because among the contributing factors peer pressure and academic stress are pronounced ones. He mentioned that it is high time to make a national action plan and sensitize young individuals so that they can grow up as responsible citizens.

Ms. Rashda (Training Coordination Officer, UNODC) referred to a 2013 National Drug Use Survey specifying 4.2 million drug dependent individuals using plant based or medical drugs. She shared that though the number of individuals using drugs would have increased manifold by now but this survey yet provides a baseline to developing this understanding the lives of many young individuals are at stake. Interventions should address targets pertinent to that age level. She highlighted that interventions should focus on avoiding or delaying initiation, development of disorders, and should help youngsters to recognize their potential.

Building on that Ms. Cristina Von Sperling Afridi (Founder Karim Khan Afridi Welfare Foundation) said that efforts are being done by collaborating with government to bring about policies to combat the issue. Regulations are geared towards the rehabilitation of drug users. She highlighted the importance of quantitative data to move forward which is currently lacking. Moreover, psychologists and teachers are being underutilized who owe a bigger role than just assisting the psychiatrists. She shared that it is important to de-stigmatize the taboo that limits the discussion between parents and youngsters about important issues. This creates a vacuum in the lives of young individuals and puts them a risk of drug usage. She shared KKAWF is actively working the government’s task force for policy designing and implementation of effective strategies to address the issue of Drug usage among youngsters.

Dr. Naeem Aslam (Assistant Professor at National Institute of Psychology) highlighted that rising prevalence of substance abuse demands more of rehabilitation efforts. Specifying about various contributing and protective factors he shared the importance of assessment and available assessment options. Particularly he highlighted about raising awareness and improvising training sessions with focus on Islamic and moral teachings.

Ms. Sidra Akhter added to the discussion that the problem has escalated more in the Covid era. Specifically she mentioned that youth is the age of energy and when these energies are not channelized in appropriate direction then it paves the way towards drug addiction. She highlighted to establish counseling sections in educational institutions where parents and teachers can be active partners to address the issue at hand.

Mr. Fayyaz highlighted the need to address the issue because 65% of the population is based on youth so this high proportion of youth calls for efforts to cater needs of this age group. According to him, it is the responsibility of every citizen to play his/her role in helping to address and eradicate the problem. By managing the issue at hand the rising number can be reduced.

There was a strong agreement among all panelists that though national policy is very clear but implementing partners are not working in the required direction. The situation demands a bigger national response where all stakeholders are to take part not a single institution. As a nation we need to empower the administration to clean up the environment. Also it was shared that youth is being overburdened by work and demands put forth on them so they need to learn to say no, forego the glorified images being available all over the place. Moreover, being judged and being criminalized is counterproductive which is to be focused while framing intervention plans. Importantly it was said that we must register that there is a problem, stop hiding and become proactive to address the issue. Overall the discussion catered for the prevalence of substance abuse, the associated sociocultural factors and the need to engage multiple stakeholders to help the youth. Ground work with reference to educational institutes may operate from HEC as an anchoring point. In a nutshell, it was said that there is a need to know the problem, own the problem, respond to the problem and resolve the problem to come up with a detoxification from drug addiction.
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Growing up in a Powerful Digital World: Voices of Youth

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As a part of pre-conference activity a panel discussion titled “Growing up in a Powerful Digital World: Voices of Youth” was held at National Institute of Psychology on 7th September, 2021. This discussion was moderated by Ms. Hafsa Khalil Toor (PhD Scholar at NIP).

In the opening statement Prof. Dr. Tim Unwin from Royal Holloway University of London, highlighted that we as humans are “data” in this digital world. We are “enslaved” as we are too dependent on digital world. He emphasized the role of regulatory bodies in devising and improving legal systems for safer use of technology. He reflected on the impact of digitization on environment as it is often underestimated.

Prof. Dr. Asir Ajmal from GIFT University, Gujranwala emphasized that digital platforms are not only limited to youth, but are equally affecting other segments of population. Focusing specially on the aspect of awareness regarding mental health related issues, he emphasized how psychologists are utilizing popular platforms for educating the audience. He stressed that social media platforms must be managed responsibly and cater to the real needs of society.

Prof. Dr. Amina Muazzam from Lahore College for Women University highlighted that extensive use of technology is leading to unhealthy social comparisons. We need to sensitize young individuals about legal aspects of digitalization. This can be done by destigmatizing the reluctance to report any type of harassment. We as individuals need to be more open and accepting in order to cope effectively with problems related to digitalization.

Dr. Jamil Ahmed Malik from National Institute of Psychology pointed out that although problems prevail, it is important to focus on the positive aspects of technology. He was of the view that technology usage is not making our brains less proactive and dysfunctional rather we are learning to adapt and accept the change. Myths prevalent regarding technology are not actually facts but they need to be explored further. Though everything is potentially addictive but the key to cope with this digitalization is striving for balance.

Prof. Dr. Gulzar Ahmed from Garrison University Lahore addressed the issue of changing family dynamics and problems of isolation related to rapidly changing digital world. He emphasized that the real question is that are these developments creating a world that is safer and more humane or not? Adding to it he further said that we need to be more sensitive and aware of fifth generation warfare.

Dr. Bushra Hassan from Islamic International University, Islamabad added to the discussion that it is important to see this digital world through the gender lens. She highlighted that in respect to the cultural context females are underrepresented therefore the issues they face are also poorly reported and understood. Parents are also reluctant to empower females with access to use information and communication technology.

Haider Ali Shishmahal’s (PhD Scholar at NIP) keen interest was in gaming and app development related to mental health. He was of the view that gaming is more inclusive than other forms of digital media because of its innate ability to involve and entertain a wider audience. More empirical evidence is needed to extensively study the effects of gaming on mental health. He himself is working on enhancing wellbeing through meditation and has developed applications to allow others to easily learn to prioritize their well-being.

In all it was an interactive and insightful session especially given the fact that we are in the era of digitalization. It has drastically affected our lives and our communication patterns. Despite the cons of digitalization we are dependent on its influential power to enhance our existence and our survival relies on striving for a more ethical and holistic approach. On behalf of National Institute of Psychology we are really thankful to our worthy panelists and esteemed attendees for a productive and thought provoking session.
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