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Depression: Situational Causes, Societal Attitude And Responsibilities

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“Sometimes the worst place at a person can be is in their own mind.”

The main causes of depression are enumerated as genetic, hormonal, brain-structural, and situational. This paper would draw attention to the aspect of the situational causes. Depression is different from usual mood fluctuations and short-lived emotional responses of daily life; it is a grave therapeutic condition when people aren’t able to cope easily. However, the coping mechanism varies from one individual to another.

World Health Organization reports that at its worst, depression can become a potential reason for suicide. Approximately, 8 lacs people die by suicide every year (WHO, 2020). Depression is perilous and the societal attitude puts insult to the injury. Mel Schwartz (2012), a licensed Clinical Social worker in his blog, writes that mostly, depression is situational. The symptoms of depression are frequently due to depressing circumstances, not a disease. In other words, under certain circumstances, it makes sense to be depressed.

Representational image.

In Our Society, Mental Health Is A Stigma And People Always Mask It

There are two ways of tackling the issue of mental health at a family or community level. First, reaching out to people who are fighting any mental health symptom and second, create an environment where people do not feel inferior less to others without being judged.

Depressive Social context is one of the potential causes of mental illness. For instance, the monopoly of some people over an industry, institute office, or community over a period of time makes it difficult for other people to thrive. Oppression of vulnerable in communities, bullying of freshers in offices, and ragging in colleges is an example of it.

Rohith Vemula, Dr Payal Tadavi, Fathima Lateef, and Mohit Chauhan are such unfortunate suicide cases that took place due to torture or institutional discrimination for the social identities of the succumbed.

Further, in the time of social media, a new trend emerged, particularly among young users, where they seek approval from society on social media in the form of likes, positive comments, and sharing. This approval syndrome, if dissatisfied, causes a weird mental agony among these youngsters. Fake news and hate-spreading stuff are also diverting young people from focusing on their real-life goals which in long run lay mental pressure upon them.

A new Netflix documentary named ‘The Social Dilemma’  has also shown that how social media is controlling our life and emotions by using artificial intelligence and keeping us busy with suggested features that tempt us and keep everyone busy all day long without any indulgence in productive work. On the contrary, social media has been flooded with awareness posts about mental health.

However, in reality, people talk behind the back and spread rumours about others, mock their social identity, looks, attire, and body-type further judge for their behaviour, habits, language and even for socio-economic backgrounds. People with mental illness are more vulnerable and always make feel uncomfortable and cornered socially.

The individual contribution in creating a toxic environment should be barred from thriving. Some people (often perceived as introverts) value their personal space and feel discomfort, anger, or anxiety when this space is encroached or disturbed. In psychology, personal space is considered as the region surrounding a human and regarded as psychologically theirs. Sometimes, society pursuit makes these people isolate for being different from set societal-behavioural norms.

This continues while creating artificial doubts on their own capacity and prods them to continually discuss their small letdowns. Sometimes, society stamps them as arrogant or insane for being differently-intellectual or spiritual and claim changes in their attitude which becomes hazardous in the long run leading to stress or depression. In addition to that, people, especially youngsters of small towns or those who come from the marginalized community, struggle a lot in big cities for jobs or in the giant educational institutes for education.

Their struggle starts with the English language, food habits, attire, so on and ends with an adjustment while proving worth and talents persistently. The desire to fit-in and conform encourages people to lose their inner-voice (Schwartz, 2012).

Recognising Environmental Factors Leading To Depression

Without having clinical expertise the genetic or biochemical origins of depressive disorder cannot be discussed, however, situational causes of depression can be analyzed. To ensure help, care, and support, the first thing is to recognize the situations that cause depression. Here are some of those factors:

  • Some people are more sensitive than others; they don’t speak but suffer silently.
  • Childhood trauma/mental trauma
  • Family conflict
  • Disaster or conflict like war, flood
  • Parental negative attitude
  • Love failure
  • Loss of love one
  • Loneliness
  • Drug-abuse
  • Struggle in Employment/career
  • Chronic disease
  • Physical disability/accident
  • Identity crisis
  • Discrimination/harassment

Apparently, no mental health context is similar to one another. Everyone is not a therapist or psychiatrist to help their near one around. In addition, if a person is suffering from acute or clinical depression then they need medical help explicitly. But if the emphasis on the environmental alteration can bring mild symptoms, people will heal possibly faster or may not reach a more hazardous mental state. Care and support are crucial assistance as Mel Schwartz asserts that people who thrive in loving relationships don’t usually feel depressed.

What Can We Do As An Individual To Support And Safeguard Mental Hygiene?

Societal Responsibilities to support:

  • Listen more
  • Don’t put blame on someone
  • Forgive and apologize
  • Initiate talks to avoid misunderstanding
  • Don’t judge
  • Don’t mock people
  • Don’t do badmouthing/bitching
  • Support and Compliment others
  • Don’t compare people
  • Don’t spread rumours or secrets of others
  • Help people
  • Be empathetic
  • Choosing to be nice with only your favoured people is hypocrisy, avoid that
  • Help people seek clinical help if required.

Individual Responsibility

We all are living in a stressful environment where self-help is much needed and thus, in order to avoid negative thoughts and feelings, following tip-offs may help:

  • Be you, not them: you can’t please everyone at a time
  • Accept your realities: self-acceptance
  • Do what makes you feel good
  • Forgive yourself: don’t feel guilty for anything, because “to err is human”
  • No self-doubt: remember every individual is unique and possesses different qualities
  • Don’t fear failure: Success is not final and failure is not fatal
  • Self-talk: when feeling low talk to yourself that’s psychologically proven as the best way out dealing with life-stress
  • Read more about mental health: More knowledge, less confusion
  • Take care of personal mental hygiene: Notice your mood and body sensations
  • Acknowledge your privileges: You have a lot more than a huge unprivileged population ever dreamt for
  • Don’t commit what you can’t accomplish on time
  • Give up and don’t indulge your ego
  • Remember, time heals everything so keep fighting
  • Don’t be obsessed with the virtual world
  • Make achievable life-goals
  • Learn to be patient
  • Take care of your body, mind and soul
  • Reach out for help if needed: do catharsis, go for counselling and seek professional help

The world cannot become a perfect place for all humans but we can try to create a healthy environment to live peacefully without stigmatizing mental illness for anyone. We should try to understand that the cure lies in addressing what our souls are longing for rather than expecting or forcing others to fit-in to the cultural belief system.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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