The World Health Organization (WHO) defined health as “a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”
We Indians, have major issues in understanding this definition let alone apply it. Somehow, we have come to terms with the physical well being part of it but the other two, still an alien thought. We can easily follow all sorts of Babas and Soothsayers but will never accept the need to look after our Mental Health.
Almost every day the newspaper is full of reports about people ending their lives or going on a destructive path for reasons which could be easily dealt with, if taken proper care of. In our country, we are happy to be doomed but no one should call us crazy. We live with our problems, stress, difficulties, issues, in our self-made façade. Even our relatives and friends help us in covering our so-called weaknesses. It’s a pathetic state which is seeking awareness and help.
When do we know we need to take care of our mental health and how do we do it?
I would like to ask you a question in response to the above one:
How do you know you are physically not well? Your answers could be anything like; lethargy, tiredness, feeling sick, headache etc. Your next step usually is to take care of it by yourself and if it is something beyond your expertise, you find a doctor to help you, so that you can lead a healthy life.
The same signals are sent by our brain , when we need to take care of our mental health. We go through an inability to be happy or experience positive emotions. Our lives become difficult and we carry it like a baggage.
Now, there is a difference between what should we do about this problem and what we do? We should, in this case also, seek an expert for help to make us healthier but generally we don’t do it. We keep on dealing with it ourselves making it worse with each passing day.
I wouldn’t blame the people of my country entirely for the negligence in this field but there are a lot of other reasons for the stigma attached to seeking mental health care:
1. Lack of Awareness: Till today, everyone thinks if you are not on the streets with torn clothes, staring at space, you have perfect mental state. No one ( that includes all the literate people) will ever recommend counseling for a friend. If you are a good friend, you’ll help him/her by helping them hide their problems not dealing with them.
I’ll recommend you to start seeking answers. If there is something bothering you look out for solutions. Until you ask, you aren’t going to get answers.
2. No one could help me: This is a feeling which stops most of us from seeking help. Sometimes we are not able to decide whether we even need help or not.
It is always better to get a second opinion because if you are in a situation it becomes impossible to take it objectively.
3. An Outside help for my problem is a taboo: It is difficult to admit that there are problems which need to be sorted and for that we need help.
What we don’t understand here is counseling works on the strengths rather than the weaknesses. It equips you with the skills to deal with your issues making you stronger and more independent than ever.
4. Lack of Mental Health Professionals: Even if you decide you need help, where do you suppose to go after that? Our country lacks good credible professionals in the mental health area. People are scared to go to a person and be exploited with their innermost feelings.
I’ll recommend checking and finding the right kind of specialist. Do your homework. There is a shortage of reliable professionals but that doesn’t mean there are none. It may take more work. Only go to a person, you can trust. It may mean you have to do some trial and error.
Thanks to technology now we have the amazing world of online counseling . You need not come out and announce it to the whole world but discreetly could seek help. We, Indians are born IT savvy. I have seen the participation of small, remote cities on social networking sites.
It is high time to build the courage to ask for help. It is in our hands to suffer till we want to. There is a huge misconception in our country, that you only visit a mental health practitioner, if you have major issues. It is not true!
I would like to take an example, which I often use, life is like a road and it is normal to get road bumps in it. It could be in the form of relationship issues, adjustment problems, stress etc. You need to slow down and sort it before speeding up again on the track, otherwise your vehicle of life will topple down.
Come out of the taboo and take care of yourself in the real sense. You need to nurture what is given to you. Take the step, if there is a need…Reach out. You need not make a scene or announce it to the whole world. Find a person, who could help.
Nothing is going to stop you in finding a way, if you make it your priority to take care of yourself!
- 20 Commandments for Mental Health Workers (twim-blog.org)
- Counselling Directory Wants to Get People Talking About Mental Health (prweb.com)