Mirror Magazine
10th October 1999

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When you need a listening ear?

By Laila Nasry and Ruhanie Perera

There are those frustrating times when people ask you "so how's life?" and you have that urge to Imagescream out "it's downright awful". But you don't for some reason or the other. Instead you fake a smile and say, "oh, it's o.k."As a teenager these are the times when you feel that everything that is horrible and unfair seem to descend only upon you and there is no getting away from it. You don't need heaven and earth, you just need to talk. You need someone to listen, not to judge. Do you think a counsellor would help?

Sometimes it helps talking to a total stranger. Parents, teachers, friends and relatives too seem fine but they know you and your past and somehow, sometimes that very fact makes you uncomfortable, because you are left wondering what they think of you and there is a possibility that they may make comparisons or pass judgement on what you are saying. This fact more or less adds to the problem and in no way diminishes it. You can sometimes feel uneasy about saying anything that might be embarrassing or shocking because these are people who practically meet you everyday and there is a possibility that they may remember all that you said whenever they see you which is not all that great.

But a total stranger-like a counsellor wouldn't, for the simple fact is that they don't know you, and after you've confided all your problems and dark secrets you might just not feel uncomfortable for saying too as you might not meet this counsellor again or maybe not as often. Thus counsellors are important and wouldn't it be great to have them in our schools?

As our parents and grand parents themselves say, present times are totally different to those gone by. As youth we seem to be beseiged with more problems, worries and vices than our parents can imagine. Thus there seem to be a greater need for counsellors-but why in schools? Not all teenagers have the posibilty of going to a counselling centre and would even feel awkward suggesting to their parents to take them to one. But a teacher in the school who is a trained counsellor could be of utmost importance and help.

Tanya Jansz, a student just out of school felt that "It's better if there is someone in school to talk to, because sometimes kids are not aware that there are counselling centres. And sometimes the problems are just little things for which you don't really have to go to a centre. But it is these little things that become major problems so it's better if there is someone at close quarters."

A mother of three sons who did not want to be identified confirmed the importance of having counsellors in schools. "My sons are really close to me but I think there are things that they can't come to me with. That is when the presence of a counsellor is needed in a school. There are also times when however close a friend is he may not be able to handle a problem. That is why I feel that an independent authority who is trained in handling situations is becoming a necessity in a school." Priya Koddippili, a trained counsellor by profession who has experience with handling school children said that a lot of children do approach counsellors to solve their problems and thus this facility should be made available in schools. She also stressed that parents should organize their time in such a way that they too make more time for their children. Counsellors in schools can function differently, either as a trained counsellor who is also a teacher and part of the permanant staff or a visiting counsellor who comes to the school on a specific date for a particular time period. Ms I.K. Rathnayake, Principal of Mahamaya Balika Maha Vidyalaya, where they have a permanant counsellor said it is important that "we guide our children and help them solve their problems-their grievances or careerwise. I tell them during assembly that they can go to this teacher if they have any problems and we also conduct seminars for both parents and students at least once a month."

Mr. David Sanders, the principal of Colombo International School was of the same opinion "At CIS there is a counsellor for every form. These counsellors are a part of the staff, as I feel that they should always be there for a student. I also feel that someone from outside wouldn't know the child's disposition as well as someone on the staff." However "a counsellor should be more like a friend," stresses Kanishka Hewage an A/L student who said his ideal counsellor would be "someone who is young preferably a male in his early twenties". For he feels that someone close to his age will be able to understand and relate better.

As students, many of us are constantly plagued by various pressures and by what we make out to be our weaknesses. What schools need to realise is that many teenagers are trying desperately to deal with the same problems and are fighting the same battles.They don't need solutions handed to them on a platter, all they need is a listening ear.

The do's and don'ts for nails

Gorgeous nails are a major beauty plus. Read these nail do's and don'ts to find out all you need to know about common nail woes.

What are nails made of and what makes them grow?

A: What we usually refer to as nails is the nail plate, a protective covering made of dead cells. It is filled with a protein called keratin made up substantially of amino acids, similar to your hair. The matrix, under the skin, is the living part, and the white crescent, or lunula, is part of that matrix.

Your cuticle is a layer of skin that protects the matrix from the outside world, so the cuticle is very important for nail health and growth. It has been suggested that massage stimulates its growth by increasing blood circulation (oddly enough, so does biting, but that's a vicious circle). The climate also affects nail growth.

I bite my nails all the time and they are really short. Every time I want to start to grow them out, I always go back to biting them again. I need some advice on how to grow them out and keep them healthy...

A: Acrylic tips, wraps and nails are often advised to stop nail biting. They are so strong that it's difficult to bite them even if you want to, and the nail has a chance to grow, protected, while you get rid of the nail-biting habit.

About a year ago I severely damaged my nail by slamming it in a door. Several layers have peeled off since then and the ugly white lines just won't disappear. Please help me. I want to be able to have people look at my nails without asking what happened.

A: It takes time for nails to recover from severe damage such as you have described. [It really seems important for the doctor to review this one; you don't say how badly the cuticle was hurt or whether you had any medical advice since then.]

Why are my nails so flaky around the cuticle beds? What causes this?

A: Unless you have an allergy to something you are handling, it is likely to be dryness which is the cause, and it is important to correct this, since cuticles are very important for nail health.

My nails can grow, but after a while they begin to peel and stop growing. What can I do to stop this?

A: Most women want long, well-shaped nails, but the stresses of daily life and work may make it difficult to grow them. Your nails could benefit from additional protection when they reach that vulnerable stage.

I have very thin nails. I was wondering if you know of anything to do or put on them.

A: When your general health is good and you are not handling strong chemicals that might affect the nails, it is likely to be heredity that produces thin nails. In these cases you could turn to products designed to give added strength to your nails.

My nails have more ridges than the Atlantic Ocean. What do I do?

A: Ridges are created when nail growth is uneven. This may be because of illness or an injury, very stringent dieting or even from some medications taken for long periods of time. When the cause is corrected the ridges will disappear once the affected nail area has been cut off as the nails grow out.

My cuticles, particularly on the pointer and middle finger of my dominant hand, are constantly white and hardened. They split and scratch my face, body and hands. ...I've used everything ever sold. Is there anything I can do to help these cuticles? My nails grow strong and fast so it's not affecting that. But in my profession I have to wash my hands about every 2-3 minutes, and that doesn't help their current state.

A: It sounds very much as though the constant hand-washing required by your profession has caused extreme dryness and other major abuse of your cuticle. You don't explain why you must wash your hands so frequently, but if you are handling chemicals or other substances which are hard on the skin, this would add to the problem.

You need to make very frequent use of moisturizing products. It helps infuse dry, damaged cuticles. Use especially after handwashing. Since you wash your hands more frequently than most people do, moisture must be replenished more often to bring your cuticles back to softness and resilience.

(Courtesy Sally Hansen Ask the Expert)

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