Buried under innumerable pressing social and human rights issues India faces today, is the abject issue of the degrading mental health of India’s youth. And why just youth? Whether it be a 17-year-old young girl or a middle-aged man, mental health issues can be found in any age group at any point in time. And here’s a fact we so often refuse to acknowledge – mental illnesses do not cure themselves, it takes proper medication and counselling to get someone out of this miserable mental space.
A recent World Health Organisation Report (2017) on India’s existing mental health shocked analysts to their very core when it was reveled that 56 million Indians suffer from depression while another 38 million are under the painful influence of anxiety disorders. The report states that approximately 7.5% of India’s population (which may seem a small number but definitely isn’t) suffers from minor or major mental disorders which require immediate expert intervention.
India has been seeped neck-deep in the gutter of narrow mindsets for centuries and changing that is definitely not a piece of cake for the government or its people. Although the country has shown a significant change in perspectives over the last few decades given the increase in educated people, it cannot be said that its take on mental illnesses is nearly as good as it should actually be. The country still is essentially in a state of growth, be it socially, economically, culturally or medically. There’s a long, long journey yet to be made.
Understanding this, I will not talk maliciously about India’s perspective on mental health. However, I will also not refrain from saying that this perspective is the very reason our people are too afraid to address their own suffering. Afraid of the stigma associated with the psychological issues they might be affected by. In a society that values reputation above personal comfort, people hiding their illness does not come as a surprise. Especially in less educated states with minimal awareness on the importance of mental health, people with depressive tendencies or addictive habits remain locked behind the bars of social pressure and the fear of being stamped ‘mad’ by a disapproving society. It is necessary to understand that they are a part of us, just as human as any other mentally healthy person is. Just as capable of contributing to the society as well.
India is facing a possible mental health epidemic. The number of affected in India is larger than the entire population of Japan. We need to talk about mental health issues and treat ailments such as depression and stress as diseases that can be cured — not as guilty secrets to be pushed under the carpet.
– President Ram Nath Kovind at the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS) Bengaluru.
Our country, as we are well aware, is known for producing one of the brightest minds world over, churning the best from its cut-throat academic competition. Is this rat race that takes hundreds of innocent lives each passing year even worth it? One of the examples is a city now known for student suicides, Kota, Rajasthan with its soaring suicide rates. Most or all of them are students between the ages of 14 to 23. They find themselves miserable and helpless under family and performance pressure by coaching institutes their families admitted them into. Sure, they want a secure future for their children, but does that justify their total disregard of their child’s choices and coping ability? I think not.
Question yourself, do you have someone to speak to when you feel you might be suffering from a mental health issue? Question again, will the person you speak to address your problem respectfully and be supportive and knowledgeable enough to provide a solution? Having someone to confide in or having them actually empathize with your situation, however, is a secondary factor. Primarily, can you build up the will and courage to speak up for yourself? Will you even be aware that you are suffering in the first place?
Do not wait in the slightest for this confusion to extend further. If you, among tonnes of others are having problems determining whether or not you need help, please spare 2 minutes and watch this short video by National Alliance on Mental Illness.
Substance Abuse Disorders (excessive and addictive consumption of Alcohol or drug of any sort) and Eating disorders (Anorexia, Bulimia, Binge Eating, under-eating) are NOT biological or physical problems. They are both mental problems that can be resolved with professional help and a little strength of your own will. These are just as important as severe mental issues like insomnia, mood disorders or depression might be.
If you find yourself addicted to smoking, consuming nicotine, alcoholic drinks or drugs and feel depressive, sleep deprived and restless if not provided with these harmful substances, you most possibly are a victim of substance abuse disorder, one of the most common and dangerous mental health issue people globally are victimized by and most of the time, refuse to acknowledge. The nature of your inappropriate habits, do not only exhibit your total disregard of your own physical and psychological well-being, but also that of your family and friends to whom you are dear.
Understand that your health, well-being and happiness comes before any sort of social pressure or fear. If at all possible, do not resort to self-diagnosis as it can go horribly wrong at times, and seek professional help. Know that you are not alone and there are thousands of people out there suffering just like you are. If they can overcome this, you can too. You are not your illness. You will never be defined in terms of just your illness.
It would be totally understandable if someone wishes to maintain anonymity while getting counselled or treated for their mental problems. In such cases, one can:
Join one of the thousands of chatrooms all over the internet dedicated to openly discussing problems such as anxiety, extreme grief, relationship issues, low self-esteem problems, stress and ways these can be cured. Open up to people facing similar problems as you- anonymously. Discuss your issues and ways to deal with them.
There are a number of Indian helplines one can call for help and counselling from professionals and therapists. Some of these are listed below with their contact information.
The organisation has been aiding people with depression and suicidal thoughts since 2002. Call the helpline on +918025497777, from Monday to Saturday between 10 am and 8 pm.
Available for students all over India. Call: 0724 433 3666
Providing on-call therapy to emotionally distressed individuals of all ages since 1968. Call +912264643267/65653267 /65653247 on all days from 3 pm to 9 pm or send an email to email@example.com.
Sumaitri is a crisis intervention centre assisting callers from all over India since 1998. Call 01123389090 from Monday to Friday between 2 pm and 10 pm and from 10 am to 10 pm on weekends. You can also write to Sumaitri at firstname.lastname@example.org
One of West Bengal’s most well-known counselling foundation, Lifeline has counselled over two lakh people as for now. Call the helpline on +913324637401/7432 or mail them at email@example.com.
You Matter was originated by psychiatry professionals and has volunteers up for the task of attending calls of callers with psychological issues. Call 08322252525 between 3 pm and 7 pm Monday to Friday. One can also contact the team via their Facebook page.
Dedicated to the noble cause of preventing suicides nationally, Roshni has trained volunteers to foster their callers to overcome depressive thoughts and other mental issues. Their helpline is operational every day from 11 am to 9 pm. Call +914066202000/2001 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Offers counselling helpline, face-to-face psychotherapy and counselling, outreach services, and education and training services. Besides the capital city of Srinagar, their outreach centres can also be accessed in Shopian, Baramulla and Anantnag (Kashmir)
The helpline is operational every day between 10 am to 5 pm except Friday and Saturday. Call 18001807020 or visit their Facebook Page for further information.
Members of a mental health community were asked by themighty.com, one thing they wish they could tell their friends but didn’t. The answers said:
“There is so much you don’t see. From the outside it all seems so easy, but it’s not. Every day is a struggle for me and small tasks like showering or brushing my teeth sometimes zap all of my energy. I cry a lot. I break down a lot. For every happy time we have together, there are hours of solitude and sadness and flashbacks and rehashing all of the traumas that made me who I am today. It can be devastating.”
“In the times when I don’t reach out to you, that’s probably when I need you the most. My mental illness has convinced me I’m not worthy of help and care, so I retreat. You showing care and kindness can help me see what my mind is telling me isn’t true. That there are people who care. That I’m worthwhile. Sometimes all it takes is a text message.”
“I promise I care about your problems, too. Sometimes, though, I’m fighting so hard just to keep my head straight, I don’t have the strength to handle anything else other than existing. I’m ignoring everything else because it is taking all my focus right now to breathe. I’ll try to make it up to you when I’ve pulled myself together, I swear.”
“I’m still the same awesome person I always am, I’m just dealing with a lot of issues, but I’m still worthy of love and kindness.”
Isn’t there a chance one of your close friends wants you to know the same things? You are as much a part of the society you live in as any other person around you. If you find any of your friends, acquaintances, family members or peers suffering from any sort of metal discomfort or issue, please do not back out from encouraging them to seek proper help and reassuring them of the normality of their condition. You may not realize this at first but you may just have saved a life.
Helping does not necessarily mean treating them as a fragile piece of crockery. It means making them feel at peace by small gestures, or perhaps some kind words to comfort them, directing them towards a professional and not criticizing them for behaviour they have no control over.
Change needs initiation, be the initiation.