In India, mental health has always been a topic that was engulfed in shame and enveloped by taboo from society. India, being the land with the film industry that produces the most number of films on a global scale, is often seen shying away from making cinema which includes mental health, on the contrary, it can often be observed that mental health is used to mock people in films instead. The common assumption which has bred in Indian households is that only ‘crazy’ people go to counsellors, therapists, or psychologists. Indian families assume that a psychiatrist who treats mental disorders caters to people who are mad and cannot show face in society. Mental health is a topic that is never discussed, and if it ever is, it is usually used to make fun of people. Mental disorders are viewed as a liability to be ashamed of which makes a person unacceptable in the eyes of society.
A mentally unhealthy person is labelled as a misfit and is ridiculed forever by society. Forget society, such a person’s families and friends are almost always unsupportive on the journey towards better mental health. The Indian traditional culture has fostered an attitude where people do not want to talk about things that make them uncomfortable or where they need to have a confrontation with life’s harsh realities. But running away is not an option, and does no good to anyone. In fact, the more you deny the importance of mental health and the more you avoid discussing it, the more damage you do to mental health because when has living in denial been of help to anyone?
Today there has been a steady escalation in the number of books that are being published on mental health, there are blogs which share heartfelt experiences of people who have to deal with issues of mental health and there are podcasts too which increase awareness for mental health among people. But despite all these external methods of help, there is a lack of conversation on the grassroots levels. An actual impact will only materialise if each and every person takes it in his own hands to educate himself about mental health and ensures that he is also looking after his friends and family.
Whenever we talk about getting hurt physically, i.e we either break a bone, or have a fever, or have a rash, we immediately rush to the doctor’s office to get ourselves diagnosed and try to heal ourselves. But on the other hand, most of us have to spend our entire lives in pain because of our unstable mental health because we never find it important to get our mental health checked by a professional and get ourselves healed. Healing is not exclusive to our body, it is also vital for our mind and we need to nourish our mind just like we do with our bodies. In this world of social media, where our lives are fixated on a smartphone, and the number of likes and comments on our pictures on Instagram, or how many friends one has on Facebook, it is now more than ever that we need to maintain our mental health because it is at an all-time high risk. The virtual world and its harshness take a toll on all of our minds and we do not even realise it because we get so involved in our screens. With so much hatred brewing among people in this political climate where people resort to incessant and brutal cyber trolling and also cyberbullying, being present on social media becomes a war zone for our minds.
Self-love is very important and there could not be enough emphasis on this. In this gruesome world, we need to look after ourselves, and the onus of our well-being is solely on ourselves so if there is anyone who can change your life, it is you. If you are not feeling well, you need to drag yourself to a professional to seek help and there is absolutely no shame in it because after all, you are just looking after yourself. Your well-being is your responsibility and with the advent of social media, there is also a positive thing that has come along. There are multiple channels and accounts which promote mental health, which encourage dialogue and conversation on mental health and which are to your rescue when you do not feel like your best self. There are organisations who are willing to hear out your problems and help you, all you need to do is share with them. Stop caring about what others might think, you owe this to yourself. Mental health issues do not necessarily have to be witnessed in old people or adults, teenagers, pre-teens and even kids can be facing problems and belittling these problems as tantrums are not fair. There needs to be more compassion and empathy in a society where communities are uplifting people and not belittling them. Be aware, and listen to your near and dear ones because they might be battling serious problems.
In today’s time, the most common mental issues that surface among people are Anxiety and Depression. Shocked? There, I said it. DEPRESSION. It is real and it is very much out there. This word has been used with negative connotations since time immemorial which is why thousands of people could not seek help for depression fearing the judgement of society. It is a problem, and just like all other problems it needs to be solved. Just after hearing the word depression, people shun the idea, but what most people do not realise is that clinical depression is curable with diagnosis and medication. But unless you consult a doctor, Clinical depression will not get treated so if you think you have to suffer all your life, you are wrong, depression can be treated and you can have a healthier mental state.\
Depression, in the most common words, can be described as “A mental health disorder characterised by persistently depressed mood or loss of interest in activities, causing significant impairment in daily life.” According to medical studies, a combination of biological, psychological and social sources of distress are all possible causes of clinical depression.
Clinically depressed people experience this persistent feeling of sadness or loss of interest. These are the characteristics of major depression. If not treated, depression can lead to a range of behavioural and physical symptoms for you to identify with. These may include changes in sleep, loss of appetite or an unusual increase in appetite, a change in energy level, a shift in concentration levels, altered daily behaviour or loss of self-esteem. Suicidal tendencies are also observed in some cases of clinical depression and can exacerbate if not treated on time. Other symptoms may include loss of interest or loss of pleasure in things one initially used to enjoy, feeling sad or numb without any particular reason, crying for no reason, trouble in making decisions, trouble trying to recollect things, feeling guilty, feeling annoyed or irritated, feeling restless, feeling worthless, headaches, wanting to stay in bed all day, backaches, fatigue, digestive problems.
Clinical depression is known to not have one single reason for its cause. There are several factors that can contribute to the development of depression-like change in the balance of hormones or distress. However, research also shows that Clinical depression can also be caused by abuse of alcohol or drug abuse, certain medical conditions like cancer or hypothyroidism, or particular types of medications including steroids.1 The most conventional form of treatment for clinical depression is usually medication prescribed by a psychiatrist or a psychologist, talk therapy with a counsellor or a therapist, or also a combination of the two. 2
In India itself, statistics show that there More than 10 million cases per year of clinical depression. We cannot afford to lose so many people at the hands of depression and we have to fight this stigma around depression and other mental health concerns together as a community. Schools should mandatorily have in-house counsellors to cater to the concerns of the students. Parents need to be more vocal about mental health and inculcating its importance in their children. Everyday stress in life needs to be kept to a minimum to keep your mental health in check since stress is one of the greatest triggers for depression. Depression is one of the leading causes of suicide and suicidal tendencies and other self-harm practices are the worst phases of depression. We need to see to it that people do not reach this extreme stage and seek help before their condition gets this worse. Psychotherapy, antidepressants, and a healthy lifestyle with proper food, sleep and exercise can take you a step further on your journey towards attaining well-being. If you do not feel comfortable sharing your mental health concerns with your relatives, then seek a professional’s help, it is always better to consult experts. The most important part of having a healthy state of mind is acknowledging the problems with your mental health and then feeling no shame in seeking help for remedying the same. Let us all swear to make this world a safer place!
Student, Kirit P Mehta School of Law, NMIMS Mumbai
Virali is an enthusiastic law student who has big ambitions, and a bigger spirit to always keep learning. She is exploring her interests in the field of law and feels strongly for women’s issues. For any Clarifications, feedback, and suggestion, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org