‘Come on, get over it dude!’ ‘Learn to let it go.’ ‘Don’t be a cry baby!’ ‘Stop overthinking. Half your problems will disappear.’ ‘Just keep yourself busy and don’t think about it.’ ‘Think positively my dear!’ ‘Mental health concerns are just made up excuses for our failures’
How many times have we heard our friends and family say this to us? How many times have we said it to our friends and family? This very assumption that feeling low and tired, stressed out and distressed, disinterested and under-confident is just a matter of overthinking and lack of grit has been fuelling our misconceptions of mental health and illness for ages. These ailments are considered a taboo – the result of our past sins and misdeeds, signs of our feeblemindedness. Individuals are reluctant to address their mental health concerns, pushing them in the periphery or denying their existence, till the time they are simply unable to function efficiently.
Is this true? Is this what mental health comes down to? Well, not really. But in our socio-cultural settings, this pretty much sums up majority of our population’s understanding. But then, what exactly does mental health entail? WHO defines mental health as a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community. One in seven Indians were affected by mental disorders of varying severity in 2017, and this ratio seems to be rapidly increasing over the years. To add to this, the mental health professionals equipped to tackle these problems are far less as compared to the increasing incidence trajectory, thereby increasing the already prevalent treatment burden.
The constant change in lifestyle, family structure, work culture and interpersonal relationships seems to be taking a toll on people’s ability to deal with these changes. We need to work on identifying and flagging warning signs of mental health concerns and seek early and collaborative intervention involving a trained team of mental healthcare workers. We, as caregivers, need to provide unconditional support to individuals bearing the brunt of emotional suffering, giving them a safe space to openly talk about their concerns without the fear of being criticised or judged.
By Asmita Dalvi