Aunt Agatha Advocates: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Written by: Liew Yi Xuan (21-E1), Harel Tan (21-I2), Eliora Tan (21-E5), Carissa Aletha Liem (21-I1), Jachin Khoo (21-U5), Leanne Soh (21-E6) 

Designed by: Liew Yi Xuan (21-E1)

Introduction: What is ADHD?

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or more commonly known as ADHD, is the most common psychiatric condition amongst youth seen at the Children Guidance Clinic in Singapore, with community studies finding the prevalence of ADHD to be between 1.7% and 16%. ADHD can be primarily classified by a predominantly inattentive type, where people have extreme difficulty focusing or following instructions, or predominantly hyperactive-impulsive type, where they show hyperactive or impulsive behaviour. However, most exhibit a combination of both. Some common symptoms include having trouble focusing or concentrating on tasks, having difficulty sitting still, interrupting others while they’re talking or being forgetful about completing tasks.

How do people with ADHD cope?

There are a few ways people can cope with ADHD. For one, some people with ADHD use exercise as a coping mechanism for ADHD. Apart from acting as an outlet of excess energy in ADHD patients, exercise could also act as a temporary distraction from stress and can improve one’s mood. During exercise, neurotransmitters, including dopamine, are released in the brain which help with attention and clear thinking. Stimulant drugs that are used to treat ADHD also increase the levels of dopamine in patients, as such exercising regularly actually achieves the same effect as stimulant drugs. 

Some ADHD patients also adjust their diet to reduce the severity of their symptoms. For example, instead of having 1 heavy meal, some ADHD patients opt to have multiple smaller meals spread out throughout the day. ADHD patients also regulate their sugar and caffeine intake as eating excessive amounts of sugary or caffeinated foods will exacerbate their hyperactivity during the day. Some ADHD patients choose to eat healthier foods like fiber-rich and wholegrains as it will not cause a sudden spike in energy levels which will worsen their ADHD symptoms.  

To stay on task, some ADHD patients choose to write a ‘to-do’ list in their daily planner. The planner acts as a memory prompt and an organising aid which alleviates typical ADHD symptoms like impulsivity, procrastination and shorter attention span. Younger ADHD patients have also used fidget spinners to distract themselves and increase their level of focus especially in school. 

Myths about ADHD

It is commonly mistaken that ADHD only occurs in males, which stems from the fact that the disorder is more often overlooked in females and thus remains undiagnosed. While the chances of males getting ADHD is double that of females, there is also a possibility that females have ADHD.

The problems that arise with ADHD are also usually undermined and people have the perceived notion that it is not a real medical condition and ‘isn’t that serious’. However, the fact of the matter is that the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the American Psychiatric Association all recognize ADHD as a medical condition.

People who are diagnosed with the disorder have a hard time trying to focus on tasks (Inattentive type) or have difficulty staying seated in situations (Hyperactive type), causing disruption in their lives which may lead to dropping out of school. These adverse impacts show that ADHD is in fact serious and should not be taken lightly.

What should we not do or say around them?

Approaching people with ADHD might be daunting to some, as we do not want to unintentionally offend them with our actions or words. To avoid this, we must be able to put ourselves in their shoes, think twice before speaking and know what comments not to make. 

One statement that should not be said is “Everyone has a little ADHD, it’s not that big of a deal.” Of course, everyone does experience forgetfulness or having some difficulty paying attention every once in a while, but this does not equate to having ADHD. One must remember that short attention spans are not a casual issue but something that ADHD patients struggle with on a daily basis, and that letting our occasional experiences invalidate this is extremely insensitive and hurtful. 

The comment “you are just lazy.” also undermines the amount of effort people with ADHD put into completing simple tasks. The symptoms of the disorder include disinterest, disorganisation, and a lack of motivation (unless the activity is something they truly enjoy), which may be mistaken for laziness. Thus, we need to understand that people with ADHD experience extra challenges just trying to keep organised and on track. 

If conflicts arise, try to view it from their perspective. Do not jump to conclusions, but instead remain calm and try to empathise with them. Listen with all ears and an open mind, and let them talk without being interrupted, asking them to do the same for yourself after.

Ways to support them

What can we do to support someone with ADHD? Firstly, we have to try and see things from their perspective. ADHD causes constant stress and seemingly menial or everyday tasks can be overwhelming for them. Thus, people with ADHD tend to lose their temper more easily or be more prone to forgetting things. Instead of being judgemental or losing our patience, we should avoid being critical and understand that they might need extra support. 

We can start by being active listeners and instead of micromanaging them, we should first clarify and ask what we can do to help. We can also acknowledge their strengths and understand that there is much more to them beyond this disability. Many people with ADHD also have low self-esteem and crippling feelings of inferiority, stemming from how other people tend to treat them. Thus, instead of labelling them as incompetent or irresponsible, we should help them by providing clearer instructions or breaking things down into smaller, more manageable parts. 

We should also try to separate their characters from their disability. This means that instead of associating the symptoms of ADHD as their personality, we should understand that these traits are just symptoms of a disability that they have no way of controlling. This allows us to empathise and form a deeper understanding with them, making them feel more validated or heard. To fully support someone with ADHD, we have to educate ourselves on the condition and try our best to understand the struggles they might be facing. 

Conclusion

In conclusion, it is important to educate ourselves about mental health disorders like ADHD. This helps to prevent misconceptions arising from lack of knowledge, leading to unnecessary conflict and stigmatisation against those suffering from ADHD. In addition, knowing the dos and don’ts when around those suffering from ADHD can help them to feel more welcomed and accepted by society, and showing understanding of these behaviours also helps to alleviate the stress they face in day-to-day interactions. We can work towards reducing mental health stigma in our society by first educating ourselves, and being empathetic towards the needs of those who are more vulnerable. 

References: 

  1. 8 Common Myths About ADHD. (n.d.). http://www.understood.org. https://www.understood.org/en/learning-thinking-differences/child-learning-disabilities/add-adhd/common-myths-about-adhd 
  2. American Academy of Pediatrics. (2019, September 27). Causes of ADHD: What We Know Today. HealthyChildren.org. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/adhd/Pages/Causes-of-ADHD.aspx 
  3. Attention-Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in Children. (2019). John Hopkins Medicine. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/adhdadd 
  4. BCI Study – Institute of Mental Health. (n.d.). Www.imh.com.sg. https://www.imh.com.sg/research/page.aspx?id=894#:~:text=Attention%20Deficit%20Hyperactivity%20Disorder%20(ADHD)%20is%20the%20most%20common%20psychiatric 
  5. Debunking 5 Common Misconceptions About ADHD. (2019, May 28). Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/mental-health/adhd-myths-debunked 
  6. How You Should Not Treat Someone Diagnosed With ADHD. (n.d.). Verywell Mind. Retrieved May 25, 2021, from  https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-adhd-correcting-myths-about-adhd-20456 
  7. Melinda. (2019). HelpGuide.org. HelpGuide.org. https://www.helpguide.org/articles/add-adhd/adult-adhd-attention-deficit-disorder-and-relationships.htm 

Revitalisation of the Sahara

Written by: Lim Junheng, Jovan (20-O5)

Designed by:  Jervis Ch’ng Yun Ping (21-U5)

Introduction

Picture this: a rise in global temperatures, shrinking ice sheets, droughts that shrivel up all flora, and floods that sink the lands we treasure. Such is the unending phenomenon of climate change — one that has constantly chipped away at the elegance of our environment. As the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warns, “Scientific evidence for warming of the climate system is unequivocal”, declaring the irrefutable proof for rapid climate change. In light of the emphatic proof that spells doom for the future of our environment and humanity, it is vital to take immediate action to mitigate this phenomenon, in an effort to hold back the inevitable. 

Introducing: The Great Green Wall 

By 2030, as estimated by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Africa will lose two-thirds of its arable land if the march of desertification is not stopped. With the onset of desertification already proving to be a major threat to sustainable development, one endeavour to combat this is the Great Green Wall. Africa’s flagship initiative started in 2007, the Great Green Wall aims to “grow an 8,000 km natural wonder of the world across the entire width of Africa”, stretching from Senegal in the West, to Djibouti in the East. In fact, it aspires to provide food and job security, as well as be a solution to the greatest threats facing Africa, like climate change, drought, famine, conflict and migration.

The Great Green Wall aims to restore 100 million hectares of currently degraded land as a result of desertification, sequester 250 million tonnes of carbon, and create 10 million jobs in rural areas. As a matter of fact, it is in line with 15 of the 17 2030 UN Sustainable Development Goals, which were adopted by world leaders to end poverty, promote prosperity and well-being of all, all while tackling climate change.

Benefits of the Great Green Wall

The Great Green Wall is a hopeful step toward a more sustainable future. Firstly, it is targeted to tackle the devastating food crisis. In the semi-arid Sahel region just under the Sahara, 18 million people have been facing the risk of food insecurity. This can be seen through poor vegetation growth, higher food prices, poor crop yields, and regional violence — a worrying sight. For example, in Burkina Faso, a landlocked country in West Africa, there has been a 32,000-ton rice shortage along with destroyed farmland and reduced rainfall due to the encroaching Sahara. With the Wall, farmers will be provided with a more stable source of food, rather than one that has been constantly destroyed due to the unpredictable weather patterns. A case in point is Senegal, where Acacia nilotica are being planted in vast numbers, producing fruit for animal feed and components of certain medicines, as well as combating malnutrition in the country. 

Other than providing a source of subsistence, the Great Green Wall also facilitates land-restoration efforts, as part of its major goals. In Senegal, more than 12 million drought-resistant trees have been planted. More than 15 million hectares of land have been restored in Ethiopia, 5 million hectares in Nigeria, and another 5 million in Niger. In Burkina Faso, local communities have used traditional practices to restore 3 million hectares of land. 

Despite the varying economic and political conditions of the countries in the region, the united effort of these countries in making the project a success is extremely commendable. This ties in nicely with another one of the major goals of the Great Green Wall, that is to bring the continent together in this cooperative effort to prevent the continual attrition of our land. As seen here, unity is a crucial objective that can bring stronger progress through mutual partnerships in the future.

A Closer Look at the Great Green Wall

The Great Green Wall claims to be “one of the most inspirational and urgent movements of our times”, with an aim to “transform the lives of millions living on the frontline of climate change”. However, does it truly live up to its noble purpose? 

Some are sceptical of the success of the project, as some issues have been brought up regarding its viability. The African region which faces desertification is extremely diverse, with varying ecosystems and communities. Even with the commendable achievements of the Great Green Wall in regions in Senegal, for instance, it is not certain that this can be an effective model for the entire targeted region. Some even believe that a better model is to be sought, and they look to Niger’s success story. In the 1980s, farmers in Niger began to allow the natural vegetation to grow, and planted food crops around it. This provided a surplus of food and 12 million acres of trees, an area the size of Costa Rica. Areas once deprived of greenery were replaced by medium to high densities of tree cover in southern regions of Niger. With such a possibility to be explored, this calls for a re-analysis of the feasibility of the Great Green Wall.

Furthermore, while areas in Senegal have seen the most progress, the differing geographical climates and a lack of political commitment have led to vastly different results from country to country. For example, the front runner, Ethiopia, reportedly planted 5.5 billion seedlings, which completely dwarfs the 16.6 million seedlings planted in Burkina Faso or the 1.1 million in Chad. This disparity in achievement is telling of the limitations of organisational support, be it on the national or on the regional level.

Another problem is the lack of a proper monitoring and evaluation system for the project. Similar to the point mentioned above, the differing systems in the various countries have led to improper monitoring of the Great Green Wall as a whole. There is an inherent ambiguity about the use of the funds allocated, leading to an air of uncertainty towards the success of the project. Therefore, as the Great Green Wall has overlooked the actual monitoring of the results, it signifies a significant hindrance to its pursuit of a more sustainable future.

Scaling the Wall

Progress is slow across the region. One decade in, and the project is merely 4% underway, while being halfway towards its 2030 completion date. Yet, many countries are still looking forward to the day this project comes to fruition, so that we are a step closer to solving the greatest challenge the continent is facing. 

With such massively ambitious goals, the Great Green Wall clearly deserves the attention of the international community. Climate change has been plaguing the planet for decades, yet something with such actionable consequences has only been spotlighted in recent years. While we cannot deny that small adjustments in our daily habits will amount to remarkable change, it is imperative that we find better solutions that are effective on a wider scale. Before we continue in our path of ignorance and disregard, take a moment to think. Is this truly the kind of future we want for posterity, for them to live in the ruins of our neglect every passing day?

Considering that all we can do is to prevent what has already been done, we must band together and face our biggest adversary in this race against time. Ultimately, while the Great Green Wall is indeed a magnificent and promising project put into our care, we cannot merely hold the triumph of this venture. Most significantly, what we require instead is a concerted effort, lest its potential be wasted. 

Hence, one possible solution that was recently unveiled at the One Planet Summit 2021 was the Great Green Wall Accelerator, aiming to better track financial commitments and implementation progress, as well as providing technical advice and supporting resource mobilisation. All these efforts have been put in place in order to ensure a smoother gateway to success as key obstacles are managed. 

And while the current efforts have just gained traction, the extensiveness of climate change has only necessitated quicker and finer solutions. It is time for us to take a step back, review our efforts, and work hard on what can be improved. After all, we must persist, for vigilance is what keeps us fighting for a better tomorrow.

References

  1. Africa Renewal. (n.d.). Desertification a threat to Africa’s Development | Africa Renewal. Retrieved February 26, 2021, from https://www.un.org/africarenewal/web-features/desertification-threat-africa%E2%80%99s-development
  2. Climate change evidence: How do we know? (2021, January 22). Retrieved February 26, 2021, from https://climate.nasa.gov/evidence/
  3. Great Green Wall Accelerator. (n.d.). Retrieved April 13, 2021, from https://www.greatgreenwall.org/great-green-wall-accelerator
  4. Hooks, A. (2013, April). Great Green Wall In Africa. Retrieved April 13, 2021, from https://borgenproject.org/great-green-wall-in-africa/
  5. Niger’s Re-greening Revolution. (2013, July 16). Retrieved April 13, 2021, from https://www.worldagroforestry.org/news/niger%E2%80%99s-re-greening-revolution
  6. Sahel Food Crisis. (n.d.). Retrieved April 13, 2021, from http://sahelresponse.org/
  7. Schleeter, R. (2013, November 4). The Great Green Wall. Retrieved April 13, 2021, from https://www.nationalgeographic.org/article/great-green-wall/
  8. Sánchez, E., McCarthy, J., & Gralki, P. (2019, September 11). A Wall That Unifies Not Divides: The Great Green Wall. Retrieved April 13, 2021, from https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/great-green-wall-explainer/
  9. The Great Green Wall. (n.d.). Retrieved February 26, 2021, from https://www.greatgreenwall.org/about-great-green-wall
  10. THE 17 GOALS | Sustainable Development. (n.d.). Retrieved February 26, 2021, from https://sdgs.un.org/goals
  11. Thomas, G. (2012, July 17). The Great Green Wall of Africa – Can it Save the Continent? Retrieved April 13, 2021, from https://www.azocleantech.com/article.aspx?ArticleID=250
  12. Watts, J. (2020, September 07). Africa’s Great Green Wall just 4% complete halfway through schedule. Retrieved April 13, 2021, from https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/sep/07/africa-great-green-wall-just-4-complete-over-halfway-through-schedule