Taking a weak, dull or depressed student and turning his life around isn’t easy. But for noted psychiatrist Dr Kannan Gireesh, director of Padma Clinic in Chennai, it’s all in a day’s work. A year after he offered colleges the chance to experience his new course-based life skill curriculum called “Live Life Curriculum’, Dr Gireesh is thrilled with how many lives he has touched.
“The number of students who have written to us and said that we have instilled the confidence within them to turn their lives and studies around is really heart warming,” Dr Gireesh said, pointing to a stack of feedback forms received from the students he handled last year.
“There are students who have come out of depression, anxiety, stress and substance abuse while others have started improving their academic performance, their relationships with parents and teachers and have started believing in their abilities to excel in both academics and life. There was one particular student who went from getting 26 marks to 76 marks — now that’s the kind of improvement we promise,” he added.
His logic behind the course is simple — every student has some deterrent that is stopping him from achieving in life. “This deterrent can take them to problems like substance abuse, stress, procrastination, disinterest, disruptive behaviour and even suicidal tendencies. We step in, get them to accept the issue and then give them the tools to repair their issues and have a happy, healthy and successful career,” said Dr Gireesh.
One thing that sets his curriculum apart from other motivational sessions or positive thinking classes, he explained, was that his course had nothing to do with “religion or philosophy or mere positive talk and advice”. It is a well researched scientific curriculum based on neurobiological research, psychological patterns and concepts of experiential and transformative learning.
Attend a session on responsibility and you will find that the course is light, modern and yet extremely introspective.
“The programmes are extremely interesting, interactive, lively and spontaneous. We connect with the students and through exercises like asking them to write down feelings or deterrents, we have found a step by step way to identify the problem with each of them and bring about a change in their thinking,” he said.
One thing that he is particular about is that his company, Livelife Education, will only work with colleges whose managements are really student centric and are committed to bringing out the best in their students.
“I am thankful to Ravi Pachamoothoo, chairman of SRM group and Thambidurai of the St Peters group of institutions for believing in my project and backing me. There are very few people like them who run colleges not as a money making venture but with a deep concern for student welfare,” he adds.
Each college that he works for has to agree to allow all their students (across three or four years) to take this programme because only it would be very effective.
“Studies tell us that it takes 30 days of impressing a fact on a person to make them absorb it as a habit. This is why we avoid three-day seminars and workshops as the human brain retains it best for only 48 hours,” he added.
Dr Gireesh related how he spent close to five years juggling his work as a psychiatrist and researching material to come up with this syllabus. “I realised that there were serious problems with the youth, but no step was taken to empower them to handle challenges in life as part of the curriculum,” he said.
Dr Gireesh’s research included consulting and being mentored by Jack Canfield, best known for his work with the ‘Chicken Soup for the Soul’ series, and working with Harvard professor Michael Jencsen.
With a small team of psychologists, psychiatrists, counsellors and academicians, Dr Kannan worked with students of two universities last year.
“The results were great. We had a 90 per cent success rate. Ninety per cent of the students we worked from 12 states showed marked improvement in their academics and in their outlook towards life. This year, we have already been asked to work with almost 10,000 students from four different universities,” he said.
“We have realised that there are lakhs of students with these problems out there. We can reach more students quickly if the government takes it up as a youth empowerment project and makes it part of the curriculum. That can make a lasting impact on the performance of the students,” he added.