This October, the world came together to commemorate 10th of October as World Mental Health Day. While we’re grateful for a day to acknowledge the importance of mental health, we can’t help but wish that everyday was treated as mental health awareness day. However, whether a day or a month, we’re grateful for the ways in which it draws attention to the importance of mental health in the world today.
According to the CDC, at least 50% of the global population could be diagnosed with a mental health condition at some point in their life. This is keeping in mind those who might be open enough to reach out and seek help. There’s another segment of the population where mental health is not even considered to be a condition that requires treatment, leaving many in denial and fear of seeking help.
Breaking the stigma
One of the best ways we can break the stigma that surrounds mental health in India today is by tackling misinformation with the right information.
1 in 3 people experience some kind of mental illness at some point in their life. You’d be surprised at how many people around you struggle with mental health issues but don’t talk about it. This happens due to multiple reasons, one of the biggest being the general societal perception and ignorance when it comes to mental health awareness. Mental illness is not a sign of weakness, but manifests due to multiple reasons and varies from person to person. There are genetic, environmental, adverse life experiences, alcohol or drugs among other biological factors that contribute to a person’s mental disposition. It is misinformation and societal taboo, not rooted in science or logic, that makes the assumption that mental health issues affect just a certain type of people.
No kind of mental illness makes a person weak or lesser compared to anyone else, but rather, just reiterates and necessitates the importance of mental wellbeing just as much as physical wellbeing. Just like with many physical ailments, timely treatment and care can help cure mental illnesses and allow people to live long, happy and fulfilled lives. Treating mental illness as a form of weakness is a counterproductive measure, and doesn’t help one recover from the trauma of their illness combined with the trauma of feeling singled out.
If you or someone you know is struggling with a mental health condition, it would help to remind them that there is hope and that it isn’t shameful, but rather courageous, to reach out for help.
Mental illness doesn’t show preference and doesn’t target just a particular kind of person or community. It isn’t about class, caste, religion or creed, but a medical condition that could affect anyone and everyone one and the same. Mental health doesn't discriminate between the rich or poor, coloured or white, religious or non-religious; it can affect anyone and all, and can come with no warning or perceived cause. Even the most normal-looking people of us all could be the ones suffering from issues like anxiety and panic disorders, social isolation, seething fear, low self-esteem, substance abuse, and much more.
In today’s day and age, information is at our fingertips and that gives us all the impression that we’re all experts in every field. Mental health, however, requires professional care and support. While social media and the internet may offer some kind of help, ultimately, the best way to go with mental health healing is in a structured format, which can only happen through a therapist or any other mental health professional. Body language is a key factor when talking to a therapist, one that the internet or social media cannot gauge. Not just that, social media can provide insight into certain behaviours or symptoms, but what it cannot do is offer a cure based diagnosis that will be of substantial help. While social media and the internet can be great learning points, to get the help you need it’s best to reach out to an expert who can give you the right kind of targeted treatment you need with personal one-on-one care and attention.
If you or someone you know needs mental health assistance, nudge them to reach out to a mental health professional and not rely solely on the internet, books or social media. Just like a doctor is the most experienced to help with physical ailments, mental health professionals are the most experienced when it comes to mental health issues and ailments.
While “what will people say” should never be the reason for not getting the help you need, in India, it’s a statement that is better said than done. It’s a social precept that acts as a prelude to almost everything we do, and pokes its nose into not just mental health, but has far reaching consequences in conversations of gender, caste, class, place and religion. We’ve heard it from our parents, who’ve heard it from theirs and the cycle has continued to this day.
WHO conducted a study in India that showed close to 36% Indians have suffered from depression in their life. This is a devastating number, and not only because of its magnitude, but because it shows how many Indians are affected by depression without getting the care and help they need to function well. The pressure to appear normal takes precedence over a disease that can be cured with the right treatment. The stigma related to mental health is one of the biggest deterrents to people getting help today. Stigma hides what goes on behind closed doors. Stigma gives the illusion that things are okay even when they aren’t. Stigma hides one’s suffering to uphold the family’s honour.
How can we be of help to those around us suffering from mental health issues?
One of the best things we can do is to listen. Oftentimes during a low phase, what a person who is struggling needs are patient ears that will listen. There are times we may know the right words to utter, but other times when we don’t, it’s best to listen and observe and acknowledge the feelings of a person who may be going through a rough time. If you find these moments happening too often and alarmingly close with the same individual, the next best thing you could do is to recommend therapy. If they aren’t able to find a therapist themselves, you could, as a concerned friend, help them find the right kind of therapy that will be just the kind of help they need.
Get them the right kind of help -
When something isn’t right in our physical bodies, we know it’s time to visit a doctor to understand what the underlying issues could be. Similarly, for our mental health and wellbeing, we sometimes require the help of experts who have spent years studying the body and the mind and the correlation between them both. If someone you know needs help, one of the best things you can do for them is nudge them to get help and when and if needed, guide them to the right therapist.
We at Gubbacci believe that creating awareness is very important to break the stigma around mental health. We are pleased to present our Custom T-Shirt collection to promote Mental Health.