You must be wondering which person in the right mindset might write such lyrics or lines. But there are people around us who might be able to relate to these lyrics to so many levels that we cannot even imagine. According to WHO, more than 20% of India’s population is going through mental health issues.

People these days are super active when it comes to physical health and maintenance. However, mental health issues are still aren’t given as appropriate importance as they should be. Mental health in our country is still considered taboo or a stigma. People are still judged as “crazy” when they seek professional help for dealing or coping with their mental health issues.

Though the mental health issues are being addressed more since the pandemic, still the impact or the awareness among people about it hasn't been as much as it was anticipated. The number of cases of depression, anxiety, suicides reached whopping numbers since the last year. We think it is the result of the “pandemic” or “lockdown” or just seating idle or too long. But this isn’t true! People have been just admitting their mental health issues which would have been the same if the situation had been different. The number of mental health issues or patients remains the same, it’s just that we aren’t aware of it.

We need to understand more about mental health as it is as important as any other health issues. So, let’s educate ourselves, shall we?

What is mental health?

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO):

“Mental health is a state of well-being in which an individual realizes his or her abilities, can cope with normal stresses of life, can work productively, and can make a contribution to his or her community.”

Mental health includes emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we feel, think and act. It also determines we cope with stress, issues, and other things and take decisions. Mental health is important for every stage in our life, from childhood to adolescence through adulthood.

A lot of factors can affect a person’s mental health. Some of the most common examples are:

  • Social and financial circumstances 
  • Biological factors

Social and financial circumstances:

Having limited economic means or belonging from a family or a group of limited resources can also lead to mental health disruptions.

A 2015 study showed severe socioeconomic causes of mental health conditions in 903 Iranian families living in poverty and living on the outskirts of a large city.

It was also found by researchers that being female increased the risk of low mental health status by 3.96% times.

People with “weak financial status” are also considered prone to mental health disruptions as mentioned earlier.

Biological factors:

Researches and studies show that genetic family history is also a contributing factor in mental health disruptions.

However, some factors affect the mental health conditions of a person.

Mental health conditions such as stress, depression, and anxiety are triggered by a lot of other factors as well.

Some of the common mental health disorders are:

  • Depression: Feeling of loss of interest in things that seemed interesting before, loss of appetite, insomnia, suicidal thoughts. 
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD): Irresistible urge to continue thinking something and acting upon it. For example: thinking of dirt contamination and washing hands, again and again, having doubts, and checking if the door is locked again and again.
  • Bipolar Disorder: Episodes of depression followed by mania (increased excitement, having delusions, and believing that he is great, the world doesn’t deserve his greatness).
  • Schizophrenia: Schizophrenia is a serious mental disorder in which people interpret reality abnormally. It may result in some combination of hallucinations, delusions, and extremely disordered thinking behavior that impairs daily function.
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Syndrome (ADHD): Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Syndrome is a mental disorder that can cause above-normal levels of hyperactive and impulsive behavior. People with ADHD have a problem with focussing their attention on a single task or work for a long time. Both adults and children can have ADHD.

Like any other part of the body, our mental health is also maintained by a lot of factors. Let’s go ahead and see how it all works:

The psychological balance of our body is maintained by a multitude of neurotransmitters synthesized by the human body. Some of the most important ones are Dopamine, Norepinephrine, and Serotonin. A proper balance of these neurotransmitters is required in keeping a proper balance of the psychological/psychiatric state of our mind.

Any changes in the level of these hormones, whether absolute or relative will lead to symptoms culminating in psychiatric illness. For example, an increase in the level of dopamine and serotonin and a decrease in norepinephrine leads to the symptoms of schizophrenia namely delusions, hallucinations, anhedonia, affective flattening, autism, and avolition. A decrease in the levels of serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine leads to symptoms of depression.

How people react to mental health issues and problems:

Most of us have the habit of giving our advice or jumping to conclusions without properly evaluating or understanding the other person. Instead of listening and understanding, we jump to conclusions. This can be very harmful or might even be hurtful to the person in distress. To help or comfort the person, we must think beyond our initial reaction.

What reactions to avoid:

Dismissing:

When someone comes to you depressed, the first thing that you say is “don’t think like that” or “stop thinking that way” or even “stop being sad”. You often start comparing them with you or someone you knew. This can be very unhelpful and the person might feel bad for mentioning what they are going through as if they are just complaining. People going through such things just want to be heard and understood. Dismissing the issues might make the person feel that their feelings don’t matter which might lead them to feel lonelier in this.

Forced Optimism:

Another way of dismissing is by being way too happy and optimistic. “Look on the bright side” or “people have it much worse than you” or “be grateful to what you have” are some of the worse things you could say to a person going through all of this. Staying truthful and realistic is way more helpful than being cheerful all the time.

Ignorance towards seeking medical help:

Most people facing mental health issues do not seek help because they are more conscious about what people will or society will think about them. People in our society who seek medical help for mental health issues are often tagged as “mad” or “crazy”. People are being suggested to visit or have them looked at by the “gurus” or “sacred people” which worsens the conditions even more. People facing such issues should be advised to seek medical help and shouldn’t be judged for doing so.

Unsolicited Advice:

People are best at giving unsolicited advice. We often advise on the top of our heads without thinking and understanding the entire situation. However, if it’s a normal issue, our ridiculous advice won’t do any harm, but if it’s related to mental health issues we shouldn’t be doing so. I have heard “people” prescribing medicines like it’s no big deal.

People who are facing depression, anxiety, etc. are advised to “join a gym”, “do yoga”, “eat healthily”, etc. which have nothing to do with mental health. Yes, having a change in lifestyle helps but it is a contributing factor in the healing process. It is not the only factor. We should be more cautious about what advice we are giving to the people who are at the most vulnerable stage of their life.

How people should react to mental health issues:

Listen to them:

Sometimes, all it takes is just to listen to the person. Don’t pass on any advice or suggestion, just listen to them. Just let them know that they are not alone. People who are going through such issues just want to be heard or do not want to be left alone. Listening and understanding the person and letting them know that they are not alone goes a long way.

Give hope:

Living with depression or anxiety can make a person feel hopeless. They might feel that they are engulfed in darkness and hopelessness. Remind that there is still hope and it is not the end of the world. Remind them that there is help and support out there. You can give them constant support and reassurance. Let them know that thighs will improve. Let them know that you are there and will support them in every step.

Encourage them to seek medical help:

People are often reluctant or skeptical about seeking medical attention when it comes to mental health. Medical help is the only way of curing any mental issues as it is a disease like any other disease. Seeking medical help for mental health-related issues should be encouraged and normalized.

Breaking the taboo:

Mental illness is still taboo. The World health organization has declared India as one of the most depressed countries in the year 2018-2019. We are good at many things but accepting mental health isn’t one of them.

More than 80% of people in India are facing mental illness. Some of them can seek medical help while others remain in fear of getting judged and being discriminated against.

People are aware of their physical health but not their mental health. Parents or guardians send their children to gym or swimming classes to stay physically fit but when it comes to mental health issues, it is termed as “just a phase”.

According to surveys and articles, India has 0.75 psychiatrists for every 1,00,000 people. A country with a population of 130 crores has such a fewer number of psychiatrists. And the reluctance in the acceptance of mental illness isn’t even counted.

It is a disease just like any other disease like diabetes or heart disease. It requires medical attention and medication just like any other illness. And with proper medication and medical attention, it is cured as well. But people instead take the matter into their own hands and make things worse.

An imbalance in the level of the neurotransmitter causes mental illness just like a decrease in insulin levels causes diabetes mellitus or a decrease in the level of thyroxine hormone causes hypothyroidism or an increase in the cortisol levels causes Cushing syndrome. There is no social or cultural taboo associated with diabetes or hypothyroidism or Cushing’s. But we fail to realize that psychiatric diseases are as normal as these.

We must start accepting mental illness as the way it is i.e., a disease, and stop judging and discriminating against people who seek medical attention and help.

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Biswadeep Chowdhury

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