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How R.E.S.C.U.E is Changing the World

Learn how the R.E.S.C.U.E is changing the world by taking a scientific approach to combatting screen addiction. This piece is written by Shirish Rao, one of the students involved in the creation of the project.

We, at RESCUE, are the undergraduate students of Seth GS Medical College and KEM Hospital in Mumbai.

As aspiring doctors, the subject of health and wellbeing is always important to us. Some contemplation led us to the alarming culture of screen dependency rampant in society today. Although most of us are aware of screen overuse today, we remain negligent about its physical health impacts while being nearly unaware about its negative psychological impact & addictive potential. This realization became the driving force behind the creation of RESCUE, Remedies for Excessive Screen Use and Exposure.

We currently have three on-going research projects to determine cause, prevalence, and physical and mental health consequences of screen overuse & its addiction.

We were fortunate to have received the apt and valuable guidance of Dr.Shilpa Adarkar, an esteemed psychiatrist & a specialist in deaddiction Psychiatry, currently practicing at the KEM Hospital, Mumbai.

RESCUE is the culmination of like-mindedness, persistence and the simple belief, that we as young Indians have what it takes to shape the years to come. Our interest in medicine and the desire to work at the grass root level have given way to the several interventions that have been conducted as a part of RESCUE.

To provide an integrated approach for controlling screen addiction, we developed our website, as a ‘one-stop-centre’ and collaborated with screen deaddiction apps like Your Hour & Lock My Phone, with nearly a million users worldwide.

Taking this forward by launching the ‘Digital Detox Challenge’ during the national lockdown due to COVID-19, we received an overwhelming response.

The ‘Digital Detox Challenge’ encourages the participants to engage in creative activities, practice & cultivate hobbies while trying to minimize their NON-PRODUCTIVE screen time to 2.5 to 3 hours for either 3, 7 or 21 days. They are also advised to use screen time tracking and ‘Scheduled App Locking’ applications like YourHour & LockMyPhone.

Participants shared that they not only felt more productive and attentive but were also able to indulge in various hobbies and interests that they might have otherwise neglected.

Our Facebook and Instagram pages, where screen use guidelines and various postural and eye exercises are regularly posted, in tandem with the website, helped RESCUE reach the people spending the most amount of time in front of their screens.

These guidelines and exercises were also discussed at the various seminars conducted for students at the following schools:

  • St. Anthony's Convent High School, Vasai

  • St Paul's Convent High School, Dadar, Mumbai

  • Sai Baba Path School, Parel, Mumbai with NGO VECTOR

Working with school students helped us gain an insight into the challenges faced by them in maintaining healthy screen habits, with the largely online and screen centric education systems of today.

With this, we aim to engage with the key stakeholders- the general public, the medical fraternity, the digital service providers and the policymakers- in an attempt to raise importance at the national level.

During the course of our research studies and by analyzing the feedback from the participants of the Digital Detox Challenge, we realized the importance of proper counseling & treatment in helping one overcome screen dependence and its psychological impacts . And this seems more necessary than ever in a time like this when mental health issues like loneliness and depression are on the rise, only fueled by screen addiction ! And so, we are working introducing a Screen Rescue Helpline, through which psychiatrists & trained counsellors can reach out to those in need.

Going forward, we realize that screen dependency will continue to rise in this fast-paced digital world. As young medical students and responsible citizens, we, at RESCUE, truly believe that; health will need to be looked at differently in the digital world of tomorrow.