This post was originally written to be published on October 10th—World Mental Health Day. Even though it is late by a week, the thoughts I’m sharing here are relevant every day of the year.
Given that mental illness is a rising problem in today’s world, that is slowly spreading its’ tentacles far and wide, I thought of sharing my thoughts on why we all need to consider mental health on our agenda whenever we think of health and fitness as an essential component of our overall wellbeing. Last year I had written a post, where I’d shared a few tips on how to stay mentally fit—which focused on the little things we can do, to keep our stresses at bay and work towards enhancing our mental fitness to be able to take on the everyday pressures of life.
Today, I’m talking about mental fitness and how our perception of mental health is increasingly becoming more relevant and important in the world we live in.
They say the mind works in mysterious ways and although we’ve only been able to tap into the tip of the iceberg with regard to how our mind functions, a lot of it is still a puzzle, in spite of long years of research and major studies that have kept researchers and scientists engaged for years. Thanks to technology and a fast-paced lifestyle, we now work 24/7 and the added complexities of our modern-day lifestyle only add to our woes and stresses, instead of reducing them. If statistics are to be believed, the USA happens to be the most depressed country in the world. In India today, as many as 5 crore people are said to be suffering from depression, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder and if that isn’t enough, we also have the highest suicide rates among youth aged 15-29, according to a WHO report.
Statistics also state another fact— that, of the rising number of people who are suffering globally, only half seek treatment for it. This is primarily due to the lack of awareness and the prevalent stigma and taboo that comes with the label of mental illness, making it difficult for them to talk about it in the open, leaving them to suffer in silence. In fact, nearly nine out of ten people with mental health problems say that stigma and discrimination have had a negative effect on their lives.
Many people believe that people with mental ill health are violent and dangerous, when in fact they are more at risk of being attacked or harming themselves than harming other people. Many with mental health problems are also amongst the least likely of any group with a long-term health condition or disability to find employment, be in a steady relationship, or be included in mainstream society.
The question before us is—Why is there so much bias against mental illness?
Perhaps the answers to all these questions lie in the fact that most people still tend to focus far too much on the word ‘mental’ rather than the ‘health’ part of it, and see mental illness as synonymous with madness, abnormality and even insanity. In the society where we live, perceptions often matter more than common sense and while we don’t shy away from speaking about our physical ailments, we pull back when it comes to disclosing the ailments of the mind.
So, why is it that while we never hesitate to reach for help when we are physically ill, we tend to hesitate to do so when we/someone we know is mentally ill? Why is it difficult to accept or even acknowledge the fact that we need help? Why do we not make time and effort for our mental wellbeing when we can see the toll stress is taking on us each day of our lives?
Perhaps what we are doing is not enough. Now that a few celebrities have come forward to talk about their conditions, many find it easy to acknowledge their problems. There is a certain openness with regard to how mental illness is perceived now as compared to a few years back when it was only spoken in hushed whispers.
It is perhaps the right time to now encourage everyone to openly talk about mental illness and seek help for themselves or their loved ones, without embarrassment or fear of being judged. As we all know, seeking timely help makes a tremendous difference in the way mental illness affects lives. When people stop suffering silently, we may not only be successful in curbing down the rising suicide rates but also ensure a healthier society.
To make #mentalhealth a priority in our lives, all we need is a few essential reminders to ensure nobody suffers silently.
- By treating mental illness like any other health condition.
- By learning not to label or stigmatise the sufferers. Instead, we could lend support, empathy and understanding to encourage them to come forward and share their journeys to help others.
- By acknowledging the suffering of those who are mentally ill and by accepting them along with their conditions.
- By learning to listen to those who suffer from the various mental ailments without passing judgements on them.
Mental illness is real and those who suffer, do so irrespective of whether they have money, status, fame, comforts and the likes. Like any other health condition—it could come for any of us at any time and at any stage of our lives. Remember, our mental wellbeing is in our own hands.