Waking up to care for the mentally ill


One day, you would read that men who are five centimetres taller than their friends have 10 per cent better chances in dating than their shorter counterparts. Another research will show that skinny models are out and plumpness is in.
The debate on the proportional ratios of bust, waist and hiplines is endless. In a study done in the UK, the searchers have concluded that on sunny days in the winter season, the back seats of the cars witness greater sex activities than the cloudy days.
In the festive season like Diwali or Christmas/new year, you would get free wheeling advice on how to binge without putting on weight. My experience is that binging and weight gain go hand in hand like two lovers.

But when it comes to mental health, there is so little awareness that it is scary. And that should happen when the WHO keeps reminding us that come year 2020, depression will be the biggest killer of all. And that more than two per cent of our people live in depression. Disabling/overwhelming anxiety takes the juice of human life. Low self-esteem is the biggest killer of human potential. Stress in life is avoidable. And that those who commit suicide give very strong signal of their intentions but do we listen or trained to listen to them?

No, because mental health is a no-no subject left to psychiatrists. The common belief about mental health is that either you are sane or insane. It is not realised that like physical sprains which do not need the intervention of a surgeon and can be set right by physio-therapist, mental sprains like depression, interpersonal relationship, stress, anxiety and the like can also be eased with the help of non-medical therapist in the form of a counsellor who is trained professionally to listen to the cries of a mentally unhealthy person who is going through a transient dip in his/her life.

Lack of awareness
Show me a person who claims that he has never felt depressed and I will show a liar. All of us go through blue moods that put us down and in these circumstances, we do not have to rush to a doc and start popping pills. The fact is that there is so little awareness on various degrees of mental health situations from one end of the spectrum to the other that only five per cent belong to the Nimhans kind of support.
Then there is this ‘stigma’ about any talk about mental health, but thankfully it is reducing. So we suffer in silence and alone. Another aspect of ignorance on the subject is that friends and relations — out of love and concern for their loved ones but equally out of lack of knowledge about the subject — end up doing things counter-productive for the well being of the person.

Two examples will suffice to clarify the point. A depressed person loses interest in life, in personal hygiene, in work, in relationship, nay, in almost everything. And what he receives in return is sermons on pulling up the socks or some similar homilies. What the person needs is understanding and empathic listening.
A stressed person acts irritable and angry but what he gets is retort in equal measure raising the stress level even higher. It is time that we woke up to reality and said less about physical health than mental health. Let us admit that with all our proclamation on physical health, there is more obesity around, more diabetes around, more depression and more heart surgeries.

I will stick my neck out and say look after mental health and a mentally healthy person will take charge of the physical health.

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