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Support systems are essential

Tuesday, October 09, 2018

There is no shame in seeking professional help for mental health issues, says Manasi Gokhale

WHO defines health as a “state of complete physical, mental and social well-being.” It also states that at least 20 per cent of young people are likely to experience some form of mental illness such as depression, mood disturbances, substance abuse, suicidal behaviours, eating disorders and others. India has 65% of its population under the age of 35 years and half the country's population of 1.25 billion people is under 25 years of age. For the longest time, people were only aware and gave importance to physical wellbeing while totally ignoring one’s mental wellbeing.

Franklin D. Roosevelt said: “We cannot always build a future for our youth but we can build our youth for the future.” This seems like the exact need of the hour. With ongoing efforts from government and various organisations, awareness about mental health is gaining momentum. In this process of building our youth for the future, it is very important to stress upon ‘not being okay all the time’; sometimes it is perfectly fine to feel otherwise as well. The current competitive world demands perfection and believes in the survival of the fittest. This attitude gives little room for deviation and questions everyone else who does not fit the bill.

The stigma around mental illness often brings shame to families and to the individual. Seeking help becomes even more difficult because of the guilt and embarrassment. No one would feel embarrassed to talk about a sprain in their leg but talking about feeling low, feeling weak mentally, not being able to cope up with stress is branded as a personal failure by society. At times even if the individual opens up, he is not taken seriously or considered this as a passing phase. A study by Stanford University School of Medicine Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Science shows that students and parents are afraid of opening up because of the fear of being labelled, being unaccepted, attention seeking or just being a drama queen. Talking to a therapist is considered as having major problems.

Conditions in our society will change dramatically if we could pick up these early signs. Early intervention leads to better prognosis. Seeking professional help, even to rule out any possibility of mental illness, will prove to be beneficial.

Creating a support system for our youth helps in limiting the intensity of mental health concerns. The first step is to be aware of the possible stressors. For example, we might fail to understand why someone feels so stressed even thinking about going to a particular class or travelling alone. At times these individuals are ridiculed and pushed to continue the activity, which only worsens the condition. Programmes like Youth Mental Health First Aid help us to gain a basic understanding of common mental health concerns such as depression, anxiety, eating disorders, substance abuse and psychosis.

It helps in providing first aid for crisis situations involving suicide, self-harm, traumatic events, aggressive substance-induced emergencies, and severe psychotic states.

In an attempt to provide support caregivers should also emphasize  the fact that “it’s okay to not be okay, but it’s not okay to not seek help.

Manasi Gokhale is a Psychologist and Outreach Associate at Mpower. She is a Creative Movement Therapy facilitator.

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