World Mental Health Day was celebrated on 10th, October 2019. Every year, efforts are made to provide support to those dealing with mental health issues. Also, campaigns are run to show the importance of psychological support, by people who are health staff, or NGOs, and even local communities.
However, the unfortunate thing is that people suffering from mental illnesses are often stigmatised in society, and some times, even frowned upon. In spite of the ongoing awareness around mental health, it’s difficult to grasp all of it, as it’s a complex area. And, I believe, without awareness, the situation can go completely out of hand!
India created its first Mental Health Act in July 2017. The law protects the rights of mentally ill people and also their dignity and privacy, throughout the period of their treatment. However, this Act did not make any provisions for mental health awareness at the workplace, as has been pointed out by Vibha Setlur, practising advocate in Bengaluru.
Mental illnesses are never considered as seriously as physical conditions. One of the most upsetting things is the apathy or sheer insensitivity shown by people who are not affected by mental illness, towards those who are.
People die from suicide every 40 seconds – 800,000 suicides in a year! Therefore, this year’s theme was ‘40 seconds of action’ and the objective was to raise awareness about suicide prevention. With 17% of the world’s population residing in India, the country records a high number of suicides; almost 2.2. Lakh people die by suicide every single year! Most of these people are between the ages of 15-29!
Who hasn’t felt lonely, felt fear of abandonment or even a period of prolonged disinterest in daily activities? Tiredness, sadness, hopelessness, social withdrawal, interpersonal problems, sleep, and eating problems are all signs of depression. Difficulty in concentrating and problem-solving, and fear about the future, are signs of worsening mental health conditions and they need to be identified and worked upon. These are just a ‘few’ signs of mental conditions.
There is an array of mental health conditions that are associated with suicide risk: these include, mood disorders, such as depression or bipolar disorder, chronic stress, anxiety, and psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia, dissociation and dissociative disorders, borderline personality disorder (BPD), borderline dysmorphic disorder (BDD), and trauma-related disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), India is the most depressed country in the world, followed by China, USA, Brazil, Indonesia, Russia, and Pakistan. 7.5% of our country is affected by mental illnesses and there are less than 4,000 experts who are available to help! This is expected to increase to 20% next year.
However, mental illnesses are not unusual problems in society. There have been numerous cases and times when people have faced severe conditions, fighting psychiatric problems. One such case is the incredible real-life story of Barbara Lipska, the director of the Human Brain Collection Core at the National Institute of Mental Health in America.
She was a leading expert in the field of neurosciences, but sadly, she was diagnosed with melanoma (brain cancer/tumour). It only took a few months for it to spread over her frontal lobe, the seat of cognition, which began to shut down. In ‘The Neuroscientist Who Lost Her Mind,’ she talks about how her personal experience has transformed the way she thinks about mental health and mental illness. The book is also an attempt to alleviate the stigma around mental illness.
Agatha Christie, the mystery writer allegedly experienced a dissociative fugue, in 1926, after her mother’s death.
While many celebrities share their stories about mental illness, there are still many people who sweep their personal stories under the carpet, refusing to confront them by living in their own world. It is high time people confront mental health concerns, get actively involved, and help to foster mental health awareness!