“It is saddening and heart-breaking to know that people don’t consider the brain as a part of the body.”
What is mental health? A topic of discussion that the majority of India steers clear of.
Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.
Over the course of your life, if you experience mental health problems, your thinking, mood, and behaviour could be affected. Many factors contribute to mental health problems, including: Biological factors, such as genes or brain chemistry, Life experiences, such as trauma or abuse, and Family history of mental health problems. However, on a more positive note Mental health problems are common but help is available. People with mental health problems can get better and many recover completely.HereSome early warning signs you should definitely look out for. Experiencing one or more of the following feelings or behaviours can be an early warning sign of a problem:
- Eating or sleeping too much or too little
- Pulling away from people and usual activities
- Having low or no energy
- Feeling numb or like nothing matters
- Having unexplained aches and pains
- Feeling helpless or hopeless
- Smoking, drinking, or using drugs more than usual
- Feeling unusually confused, forgetful, on edge, angry, upset, worried, or scared
- Yelling or fighting with family and friends
- Experiencing severe mood swings that cause problems in relationships
- Having persistent thoughts and memories you can’t get out of your head
- Hearing voices or believing things that are not true
- Thinking of harming yourself or others
- Inability to perform daily tasks like taking care of your kids or getting to work or school
Positive mental health allows people to:
- Realize their full potential
- Cope with the stresses of life
- Work productively
- Make meaningful contributions to their communities
Some ways to maintain positive mental health are:
- Getting professional help if you need it
- Connecting with others
- Staying positive
- Getting physically active
- Helping others
- Getting enough sleep
- Developing coping skills
Numerous people seem to belittle the importance of mental health. Spare a few minutes and educate yourself as to why mental concerns are just as crucial as any other health concern.
- Mental illnesses are more common than you think. In fact, they are more prevalent than cancer, diabetes or heart disease. Approximately 20% of the world’s youth have mental disorders or issues and about half of them develop disorders before the age of 14 (World health organization). This is something that should be widely addressed when it comes to awareness and treatment.
- Anyone can have a mental illness. Regardless of a person’s location or status, mental illnesses can affect anyone. No matter people’s age, race, religion or income, these illnesses can be present. Absolutely anyone can have a mental health concern.
- There are many different kinds of mental illnesses. The most serious include depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, panic disorder and personality disorder. There are other, more mild cases of mental illnesses that should still be addressed, but these are all very serious examples. These conditions are not to be taken lightly and another reason why mental health awareness and action is so important.
- The leading cause of disability worldwide stems from mental and substance use disorders. Nearly 23% of all years lost due to disability is caused from mental and substance use disorders (World health organization).
- Mental disorders and addiction contribute to many suicides around the world each day. 800,000 people commit suicide each year and it’s the second leading cause of death in 15-29-year-olds (World health organization). Becoming aware of the signs and effectively managing the symptoms is key to reducing these numbers.
- Mental disorders increase the risk of contracting other diseases and inflicting self-injury. These other diseases can include HIV, diabetes and cardiovascular disease (World health organization). hence, not only are mental illnesses dangerous on their own, but they can also lead to other harmful diseases.
- Most people with mental illnesses don’t receive proper treatment. Stigma and discrimination play a large role in this. There is a myth that many mental disorders are untreatable. Some people also believe that people with mental disorders are difficult, unintelligent or incapable of making decisions (WHO). In many instances, people with these disorders are treated as a number rather than a person who needs treatment.
- Mental illness needs to be taken more seriously. Regions of the world with the highest percentage of population under 19-years-old have the poorest level of mental health resources (WHO). There is only one child psychiatrist for every 1 to 4 million people in most low and middle-income countries (WHO).
Mental health is obviously an important subject in today’s society and deserves proper attention. With the proper care and treatment, symptoms of mental illnesses can be greatly reduced. The faster that people are made aware and treated, the faster they can start enjoying their lives.
The last subtopic I’d like to address is the stigma of mental health in India.
As Aristotle once said,” “It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light.”
However, majority of the population in India refuses to even consider mental health as a topic worthy of discussion and awareness. Due to this, people are afraid to speak up about their problems and continue hiding behind their fears of being outcasted or not being accepted by the society.
India is currently home to a population of over one billion citizens. A study conducted by the World Health Organization in 2015 shows that one in five Indians may suffer from depression in their lifetime, equivalent to 200 million people.
Due to the stigma associated with mental illness, a lack of awareness, and limited access to professional help, only 10-12% of these sufferers will seek help.
The Live Love Laugh Foundation (TLLLF) is a charity that aims to create awareness of mental illness and reduce the stigma associated with it, with a particular focus on stress, anxiety and depression.
The Foundation commissioned How India perceives mental health: TLLLF national survey report 2018 to help gauge India’s mental health landscape with the objective of exploring perceptions surrounding mental health and mental illness in India. The study further explores the level of sensitivity, attitudes towards mental health, and the level of stigma associated with it.
The study took place across eight cities in India over a span of 5 five months and involved 3,556 respondents.
People’s understanding of mental health
The study showed that while 87% of the respondents showed some awareness of mental illness, 71% also used terms associated with stigma.
This shows that stigma and awareness are two separate issues although interlinked.
They need to be addressed in parallel in order to tackle the burden of mental illness in India. If individuals continue to view mental illness with apprehension and resistance, it will remain difficult for people with mental health concerns to seek the support they require due to the fear of being labelled or judged.
“I know these will all be stories someday, and our pictures will all become old photographs, and we’ll all presumably become somebody’s mom, dad, uncle or aunt, but right now, these moments are not stories, this is happening. You are alive. So stand up and see the lights on the building and everything that makes you wonder, and you’re listening to that song on the drive with the people you love most in the world, and in this moment, I swear, we are infinite” You’ve got only one life to live, so don’t restrain yourself. Treat people equally and with respect. Do whatever makes you happy. You are given a voice for a reason, so speak up”.
– Samyuktha Sanal