Why it is important to talk about Mental Health

7 May

My best friend is a diabetic. Offer her a pastry and she is quick to tell you about her condition where sweets are a No – No.

Not just her, but all of us are comfortable and even very forthright when it comes to discussing our physical ailments.

The listener too is empathetic and compassionate when told about a broken hand, a gall bladder surgery or any other physical ailment that warrants attention, treatment and adequate care.

Talking of Mental Health is another matter altogether.

Firstly, very few people want to talk about it. They are embarrassed about what is happening and how their peers or loved ones will react to it.

Guilt is another emotion they go through; some feel they have let down their near and dear ones. I once met a middle aged man who was grappling with depression and couldn’t tell his family about it, as he thought, that he who was supposed to be their protector would be betraying their trust by talking of his distress.

In many societies having a mental health issue is seen as a kind of personal weakness.  Phrases like …’Just get over it’; ‘Look on the bright side’, Strategies to work on willpower and other well meaning nuggets of advice are freely dispensed to the person who dares to share his/her dilemma with someone.

Then there is the fear of being discriminated or even losing one’s job if they exhibit the nerve to discuss their anguish.

At times symptoms of the illness may terrify some, and even talking about them can be difficult.

No wonder Mental Health issues are kept under wraps – like it is some secret society that spreads its power on the weak, who crumble under its hold.

We are accepting of a fracture in any part of our body except our brain.

There is discomfort, shame and stigma attached to any discussion on matters pertaining to mental health. As a result, many people do not reach out for help even when they are suffering for the fear of being mocked or not understood.

Its time we take charge of our well-being.

Mental illness is a problem that can affect anyone.

At some stage in our lifetime, it is possible that we may experience depression related to the loss of a loved one or the anxiety associated with the diagnosis of a terminal illness or eating disorders or more severe ones like schizophrenia etc.  It could happen to someone we care about. Leaving the problem untreated only makes the issue get worse.

Talking about your issue is the best thing you can do for yourself. Once you accept that you need help, its like a burden off your shoulders and you are more receptive to seeking and using the right kind of help.

The fear and stigma that surrounds mental illnesses is surmountable only if each and every one can talk about mental health issues like depression or suicide with the same openness as they would discuss a physical issue like diabetes, Hypertension or Cancer

These conversations on mental health issues can happen at any place- homes, workplace, schools, places of worship, cafes.  Through these conversations we will be able to –

  • sensitize the community about the need to treat these issues with sensitivity and empathy
  • Inform people that those with psychological issues are not incompetent or weak or dangerous. They have an issue, which with the right kind of treatment, will be manageable. The issue is not their identity.
  • Apprise the men that Mental health issues can affect anyone at any age, of any sex or race. Men need not see it as a sign of weakness.
  • Show those suffering concern and willingness to help. Just as you don’t blame someone for having hypertension or ask a diabetic why he needs to take his insulin, similarly you don’t blame those who suffer from mental illness for their lack of will or optimism; Instead direct them to avenues where help is available.
  • Validate the struggles of the suffering and encourage them to talk about their strife without the weight of judgment.
  • Challenge and educate people who are misinformed or talk negatively about mental health conditions.
  • Increase awareness about Organizations and hotlines that provide support and treatment for various mental health disorders.

Everyone deserves to live their life to the fullest.

When we openly talk of mental health issues, support those going through them and ensure they get the treatment and the empathy they deserve; Only then can we pull down those invisible walls behind which countless people feel isolated, lonely and suffer silently.





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