World Mental Health Day | #MindMatters

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.

(Linking up with Corinne of EverydayGyaan for #MondayMusings.)

13 thoughts

  1. Timely post, Esha. In our country and in most Asian countries, mental illness is still looked after as something scandalizing. Seeking help from others, counselling or talking to professionals can sort the problem but the stigma that is attached to it, the branding as “pagol” is very very disappointing. I really wonder when we would really become aware of the problem and begin treating mental illness like any other health issues.

  2. Unlike other illness, mental illness isn’t black and white. It needs time, understanding and empathy. For long mental illness has been regarded as a weakness… They tell you to get it together and deal with it. They talk about strong will and control. More often than not, people tend to lose patience. Maybe that’s why there is a rise in rehabilitation centers too.

    This is an excellent post Esha. The more we talk about it, the more we will understand and empathize with the patient.

  3. Awareness is the key. More we talk and read about Mental Health I think more we will be able to help. Our negligence and ignorance can cause so much of trouble. In order to be more supportive we need to be properly educated.

  4. We need to speak up more and more about the need to stop stigmatizing mental illness. I have to confide in you, Esha, it is easier to do it virtually than talking about it with the people around us in the real world. I see educated people making fun of someone dealing with mental illness issues. When these people lack basic compassion, how can we expect them to understand the struggles of a person dealing with something as basic as anxiety. Destigmatizing is a long way to go.

  5. How right you are. We are mental – not really thinking about health mental or otherwise. One of the reasons why this is not considered an illness is because we are taught to put ourselves last – just get on with things and feel happy that they weren’t worse! With such a warped view of coping with life, it is no wonder that we are stressed and living on the edge.

  6. The more we speak up, the more mental helath would be accepted as conditions that exist and can come to normal people,. Till date, the notion is that it can attack only when one goes through a personal tragedy. ” You have everything, whats there to get depressed” and this is what people often tell the people with mental issues.

    India is loaded with stigmas associated with it! Time to change mindsets.

  7. Esha your writing is always so powerful and hits the spot each time. This needs to be written, shared and spoken about extensively. Having been there I know how complex “mental health” issues can be.
    The need of the hour is to focus on mental fitness and not brushing the importance of mental health, under the carpet.
    We don’t hesitate to see a doctor for a common cold, but then we do with regards to our mental health. I guess this stems from the fact that we have been fed on the fact that emotions are under our control, and that it’s better to solve them out personally. What we forget is that mental health issues also arise out of a chemical imbalance in the brain. Once that is fixed, mental health patients can go on to lead such meaningful lives.
    I can vouch for this fact, having been there for sometime and now leading a joyful, healthy life, for over two years. Touche’

    Your piece prompts me to write a personal account on mental health, even though I might be more than a week late. In between the Pujo busyness that is. Que sera sera! 🙂
    How are Pujos looking for you? Here’s wishing Arjyo, Jay and you a beautiful festive season brimming with much peace, health and happiness always. Lots of love. <3

  8. Thank you for speaking up on this topic. We actually have a shortage of psychiatrists in India as it is but then to make matters worse, people won’t seek help also. And especially in a world that is raining down negativity and loss upon us all, so many I know are breaking down now at such a young age.

  9. Very well researched and written post. It is really unfortunate that we tend to associate mental health with sanity in most of the cases. But I’m glad that we ate more open to talking about this now.

  10. Is mental illness on the rise, or have we just become more open about it? I honestly don’t know. The idea that it’s on the rise makes it imperative to find out WHY. BUT, if we’ve simply become more open to talking about it, that’s a double edged sword. It may make some patients more vulnerable to thoughtlessness and cruelty, but increased awareness leads to research finding and more effective treatment options.

    It is a share that it still carries a stigma. Then, too, lung cancer is still associated with smoking and a presumption – often incorrect – that the victim brought it on themselves. We are not always as kind as we’d like to believe we are.

    1. My personal belief is that mental illness IS on the rise, Holly. I guess a lot of it has to do with the lifestyle choices that we are making, a growing sense of alienation even though technology is supposed to have shrunk the world and brought us closer to one another, through 24/7 connectivity. But, I feel, we are less connected to each other today than we ever were. At least, that true of our Indian society to a huge extent. I know what you mean about the stigma. I’ve had first hand experience of that stigma when a family member was diagnosed wth mental illness years ago. We are definitely not as kind as we ought to be. I’ve seen the nasty side to this world early on in life and I dare say the world we live in is rather brutish and cruel, and very unforgiving too!

    2. I think it’s both. Strangely, I saw so many more people suffering from mental health issues in Mumbai. I think the stress of a big city can lead to this. While I’m glad that we’re talking a lot more openly about it, there’s still a great deal of stigma. In India, we don’t have enough of information about and access to psychologists and counselors. As a result people often go to psychiatrists and end up on medication for what might have needed only therapy. What do think, Esha?

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