Ask anyone what is the most important thing in life and you’ll get plenty of answers. Fame, health, family, money, success, etc.-and none of these will be wrong. But rarely will you hear anyone utter the words “Mental Health”.
Mental health is treated no less than a taboo in our country. It is talked about behind closed door and in hushed voices because let’s face it; we are still uneducated when it comes to mental health. More than 50% of us still believe anyone with a mental health problem is “crazy” or “psychotic”. And because of this wrong information, at least 14% of our population suffers from some kind of mental health issue and the numbers don’t seem to be decreasing.
Our reluctance to talk about our mental health is not only putting us at risk but it’s also endangering our youth. They grow up believing that mental health issues are not real problems or someone might think of them as a crazy person. They hesitate to step out and seek treatment and suffer alone in silence. No wonder the rates of suicide and crimes are increasing amongst the youngsters. It’s NOT the phones; it’s our inability or rather a stubbornness, to understand that we need to shed our inhibitions and talk about the issue that’s been slowly poisoning our country.
Did you know India has the highest rate of suicide across the world? Most people don’t have access to mental health care nor do have any education about it. Moreover, suicides being criminalized in India, the survivors are hesitant to seek treatment lest they be thrown in prison.
So how do we tackle this problem? How do we take measures to ensure that the people suffering are able to come out and seek treatment without feeling ashamed? How do we make it easier to gain access to mental health education and healthcare?
We can start by respecting the people who are suffering from mental health problems. Instead of calling them “crazy” and “psycho”, we should empathize with them and ask them what we can do to make them feel better. We should treat them like a regular person rather than look at them with pity and feel sorry for them.
Don’t form a stereotypical image of a mentally ill person in your mind. Mental health problems are a disease and could happen to anyone. When you start thinking that only one type of people can be suffering, you are unwittingly dismissing others who don’t quite match up with your “expectations”. Remember, it is different for everyone. Even a person who has a good job and happy family could be suffering from depression or anxiety. Having good things in your life does not make you immune to it
Stop telling people that the cure for their problems is “to smile more and be positive” or that they just “need to get out more”. You wouldn’t ask a person with a blocked nose to smell flowers because you know that at that moment it is hard for them. Similarly, if someone is depressed or has social anxiety, it is hard for them to focus on happy thoughts or interact with people. Be respectful of that and give them their space. It is much harder for them than it is uncomfortable for you.
We need to educate ourselves on mental health problems. We need to recognise that there are many mental issues besides depression, schizophrenia, anxiety and that two people could be suffering from different variations of the same disease or the same one that affects them both in a different manner.
Lastly, be observant and listen. If you notice a sudden change of behaviour in your friend or they seem to be sounding more negative and pressured by the day, talk to them. Be their confident. Support them and if they feel comfortable, talk them into seeing a therapist. The support of family and friends can play a very important role in case of mental health.
Mental health is a very serious issue. While it may seem uncomfortable to talk about it, it is important that we do. We need to educate ourselves and be aware of it in order to stamp out the stigma attached to it. We need to act in a way that makes this world a safe place for everyone. It is important to put out the message that it is okay not to be okay. Who knows how many lives you might save!