Why should society take it more seriously?
By Jasnam Sachdev
According to the World Health Organisation, “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 is able to make a contribution to her or his community.”
When we think about mental health, the first things that usually come to mind are extreme cases or “issues,” but the most common forms of anxiety, depression, insomnia and alcoholism fall under this category as well. These symptoms are not far from our reach or network, so why is it deemed such a taboo in our community and culture? Mental well-being is as important as one’s physical and emotional welfare, and is a vital part of what makes us wholesome individuals. However, culturally, we do not seek external resources, nor do we openly share with our fellow society members. And this begs the interesting question of “WHY?”
Why are mental health conditions judged as weaknesses?
Let’s take a look at what others have to say…
“Sensitive men are considered feminine. We are taught to bury our feelings, as they are supposed to be private. Sharing them with loved ones will only cause them worry. We may be taught that prayers are a solution to solve anxiety. However, mental health is an issue that we should be able to discuss openly among Indians, without being seen as ‘crazy.’ Societal pressures to marry, join a family business or to behave in a certain way, should be discussed head on. It is your happiness.” — RAGHAV METTAKUN, 29 YEARS OLD
“It is really important to destigmatise mental illness and create awareness, especially in our community. If you had a broken bone, you would go to the doctor, and you should do the same when dealing with a mental illness. By spreading awareness, you might help to remove the stigma and possibly help someone close to you. There should be no shame in acknowledging you are battling mental illness.” — CHANDNI KUMAR, 28 YEARS OLD
“I think it is important because it affects your whole dynamic. If you are not mentally stable, how can you go through life? I think it should be addressed even though a lot of people consider it a taboo. Why is there so much emphasis on physical health and appearance, and not much on mental well-being? In Western countries, counselling is so normal, whereas here it is seen as a weakness and abnormality. Why?” — GURPREET KAUR, 22 YEARS OLD
It appears that living in a society creates unnecessary pressure as a result of a constant obsession to appear perfect. Dealing with a mental illness, no matter how common, is still kept hush-hush for fear that those around us won’t understand or show support. An individual will be seen as weak or unhealthy if they suffer from any kind of condition. Oftentimes, the typical reaction we get when we share our feelings are theories of why this is the case, and assumptions of different causes. However, it is now time we become more aware of life’s natural processes, and use our community to be more supportive of one another.
29-year-old Sanju Sachamuneewongse shares his journey on battling mental illness
“It started in March 2015 when I was sitting in my room, suddenly crying hysterically. I didn’t know what was wrong and I didn’t know why I was crying. However, it continued for many days. I can still feel the pain from all the headaches I used to have. I was living with it as if it were a part of me. The feeling that I wasn’t worth it kept lurking in the back of my mind.
My parents had no idea what was wrong. They wanted to find out, so we went to the hospital to get an MRI to see what was causing my headaches. The doctor found nothing and so we came back home. As the days went by, the feeling of being good-for-nothing kept intensifying. It came to the point where I was so physically and emotionally numb that I started to harm myself. I would either punch or bang my head on the wall hoping to break something, and when the pain didn’t go away, I started to cut myself. A cutter became my security blanket. Whenever I would have a panic attack or a nervous breakdown, I would run to get one.
In December 2015, I was diagnosed with Major Chronic Depression and Schizophrenia. I would hear voices and hallucinate a lot, so I started getting medication and treatment. By 2016, I was taking 15 pills a day and would go for ECT (electroconvulsive therapy) every alternate day. I started gaining weight from the pills and went from 96kg to over 150kg. It got to the point where ECT became too dangerous for me, so I was admitted into the hospital for normal therapy instead. I was unable to see the end anytime soon.
It was a painful journey, and I thought that the only way I could stop me and my parents from suffering was to end it altogether. I tried to commit suicide twice, in April 2017 and May 2018. However, when I was discharged from the hospital this year, I tried to find my passion for life again. What kept me going for the past four years was having my parents and close friends to talk to whenever I needed support.
Talking really helped release my tension. Even though many people didn’t understand what I was going through or how I felt, my friends never left my side. Even today, I am very thankful to them and my parents for allowing me to be me, and to open up to society about my mental health problems without shame.
During those years, I was told by many that I shouldn’t share because of what society will think, but the rebel in me and the fact that I don’t care much about people’s opinions kicked in. I shared almost every detail on Facebook
so that those around me could understand and educate themselves about mental health.
Afterwards, many reached out asking for advice, either for themselves
or others, and I am always willing to help out. This year, I have found a new purpose in life; to educate people about mental health, and to help those who are on the verge of committing suicide.
I am currently working on starting my own non-profit called Sati App. I hope that the society we live in will become more accepting to those who are going through a tough time by trying to understand them and caring more about them than ‘what others will think.’ My parents did just that and they have been my greatest support. One of my favourite quotes to live by was said by John Nash — “The only thing greater than the power of the mind is the courage of the heart.”
MYTH versus FACT – Let’s discover the truth…
Personality weaknesses or character flaws cause mental health problems. People with mental health problems can snap out of it if they try hard enough.
Mental health problems have nothing to do with being lazy or weak and many people need help to get better. Factors that contribute to mental illness include:
• Biological factors, such as genes, physical illness, injury or brain chemistry.
• Life experiences, such as trauma or a history of abuse.
• Family history of mental health problems.
There is no hope for people with mental health issues. Once a friend or family member develops them, he or she will never recover.
Studies show that people with mental health problems get better and many recover completely. Recovery refers to the process in which people are able to live, work, learn and participate fully in their communities. There are more treatments, services, and community support systems than ever before, and they have proven successful.
I can’t do anything for a person with a mental health problem.
Friends and loved ones can make a big difference. Only 44 percent of adults with diagnosable mental health problems and less than 20 percent of children and adolescents receive needed treatment. Friends and family can be important influences to help someone get the treatment and services they need by:
• Reaching out and letting them know you are available to help.
• Helping them access mental health services.
• Learning and sharing facts about mental health, especially if you hear something that
• Treating them with respect, just as you would anyone else.
• Refusing to define them by their diagnosis or using labels such as “crazy.”
Children don’t experience mental health problems.
Even very young children may show early warning signs of mental health concerns. These are often clinically diagnosable, and can be a product of the interaction of biological, psychological and social factors.