Resilience building vital to urban mental health quality

Resilience building vital to urban mental health quality

Mental health issues are becoming matters of greater concern in contemporary society. Problems associated with mental health have been increasingly reported these days, especially in the urban spaces.

Can we consider this as a new trend and, if so, how can we address this situation? Can we leave it as a matter to be discussed by the psychiatrists or psychologists or can we limit our discussions and debates around the time of observing World Mental Health day every year which falls on October 10?

The point one has to ponder is with respect to the real cause of this issue and the plausible solutions.

Mental health issues are not a new phenomenon. If we look into history, at any period of time, issues related to mental health were present in one form or the other. But every society had some mechanism to address the situation. It was the community-oriented social networking and interpersonal relations that enabled people to have better resilience against the odds.

When compared to the early days, in the present society, especially in the urban spaces, people are enjoying many luxuries. And yet, they are the ones who have been largely affected with mental health problems which include increasing rate of suicide among youth, usage of substance, depression, marital breakup, divorce and the like.

So the question here is, despite having many facilities and technologies to lead a comfortable and easy going life, why are the urban areas more affected with mental health related issues? Can we locate a single cause for this aberration and come up with a solution?

Mental health is as important as physical health. But the general public does not make a conscious effort to ensure the quality of its mental health. According to World Health Organisation (WHO), mental health is defined as a state of well-being in which “every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully and be able to make a contribution to his or her community”.

It is not just the absence of mental illness. Poor emotional, social and spiritual quotient can result in a weaker mental health situation, too. This affects the health of an individual, family as well as the society.

In order to make optimum utilisation of an individual’s potential and to have maximum output, mental health is crucial. The stability of a society also depends on the mental health of its people. The visible forms of mental health problems – higher suicide rate, depression and substance abuse – are the indicators of a pathological society. Therefore, the issue of mental health needs to be addressed at three levels - societal, familial and individual.

People in urban India – except the vulnerable ones who are homeless and who live in the margins of the city – are actually blessed with all their basic needs and most luxuries. The urban middle and upper middle class forms a privileged lot. They rarely experience greater risks or uncertainties at the societal level like terrorism, war or conflict that can have an impact on their mental state. In Indian cities, we do not have any serious incidence of starvation as is the case with many African nations. We do not experience any uncertainty as is experienced by the people of Afghanistan or Palestine. So, what is lacking in our society?

Every individual, an island

We live in a society comprising individual islands. What we lack is the social quotient. In a technology-driven era where everything is accessible on our finger tips, people lack interaction with their fellowmen. How long can we neglect our neighbours while remaining immersed in Twitter, Facebook or WhatsApp? It is important to promote a socially conscious society with an increasing cultural involvement of people. If each individual contributes a little in the form of social consciousness, we can positively alter or enhance the quality of mental health of our own society.

As Indians, we consider family to be the most important institution that moulds an individual. It is expected to play an important role in nurturing the basic value system of its members. Today, a family provides everything including economic security, material comforts and basic needs that a child needs from it. But what is lacking is communication between family members.

For many children, family is either a shelter/ physical space or a money winding centre. What we need to revamp is the warmth and the strong bond between family members. Importance of interaction has to be inculcated, promoted and nurtured as a family ritual on everyday basis. Proper communication between parents and children will give room for emotional ventilation and will help to improve both emotional quotient as well as social quotient. These are very much essential for sustaining a sound mental health.

It is highly evident that our youth are more vulnerable to mental health issues. Every third person in an Indian city today is youth and therefore we need to be concerned about the mental well-being of our future generation. The major reasons for the mental health issues that boggle our youth have been related to work place stress and unhealthy lifestyle. Youngsters today lack interpersonal relationships. This difficulty in maintaining relationships, both in the family circle and outside can lead to depression and substance abuse.

In a technologically driven society, where social media determines the social space, the nature of communication change as well. Impersonality – which is a mark of modernity – has pervaded all spheres of human life in an urban space, affecting the quality of mental health. The need of the hour is to think about the ways to increase the resilience of individuals. Let us work towards resilience building as a life skill to enhance the quality of mental health in urban spaces.

(The writer is Research Officer, Regional Technical Training Centre, NIMHANS, Bengaluru)

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