ONE STEP AT A TIME - MENTAL HEALTH
The human race is experiencing unusual times. We are faced with challenges that were part of our imagination but not something that we were prepared for. We are almost on a threshold of a dystopian world, plagued by disease, death, and despair. All around us, there is a feeling of dread and the future seems hopeless. Therefore, it is not surprising that we are witnessing a rise in the number of people deciding to end their life because they feel they have reached the end of the rope.
In a world that was already grappling with unrealistic social constructs of how an ideal life looks like – exotic vacations, latest fashion, fancy cars, romantic dinners, and the works. In a world, where everyone looks for instant gratification, not meeting these standards leads to frustration and low self-esteem. All this is now compounded by the Covid-19 crisis where our "normal" world has been turned on its head, with no respite in sight.
According to National Mental Health Survey 2015-16, carried out by NIMHANS brought to light the rise in mental health issues in our country. Interestingly, urban population, children, and adolescents showed higher vulnerability to mental disorders. These demographic groups are the ones with greater access to digital platforms where they are constantly bombarded with images of a jet-setting lifestyle. While there is nothing wrong with having aspirations to better one’s life, there have to be reality checks to control expectations.
In times when all luxuries of life are available at a press of a button, or where the consumer is spoiled for choices, it is becoming increasingly difficult for us to be left out of the race to have it all. Our aspirations are colored by what we see around us and what is being projected on social media. The pressure to fit in and to belong can get too much. Individuality is getting lost in the herd mentality. And we all are guilty of fueling it.
Sadly, we as a society are not handling this scenario well. When something tragic, involving a celebrity happens, everyone becomes an expert on mental health. You see Facebook walls of people posting copy-paste messages saying that their doors are always open, a hot cup of coffee always brewing and a warm couch always waiting for their friends who need to share their problems. They all miss the biggest point, the friend who is struggling with mental health issues is not waiting for your invitation via social media to feel loved and wanted. What that friend need is a phone call or a visit, just to show that you are around to take care.
We are raising our children to be successful in whatever they do but failing to teach them the importance of failure. We protect them from disappointments thinking we are safeguarding them from pain. We are compensating for lack of time with material gifts, hoping that they will be enough to build strong bonds. But what we don’t realize is that, in fact, we are doing a great disservice to them. We are not preparing them for life.
There is a reason why human beings experience a range of emotions. Each emotion, negative or positive, has its place in maintaining mental balance. Disappointment, heartbreak, failure, rejection, etc. are all a part of life. Every emotion – happiness, love, fear, anxiety, sorrow, anger, shame, guilt, etc. – is also equally important and must be manifested at the appropriate time and situation. I recommend watching the movie Inside Out to better understand this point.
If you truly want to help anyone undergoing depression, don’t follow any template. Do understand, that for someone who is already feeling despondent and dejected, too much positivism and pep talk could be counter-productive. It could further push them on a downward spiral of feeling inadequate and broken. Sometimes, the mere acknowledgment of what they are feeling and assurance that there is no shame in feeling what they are feeling goes a long way in bringing them back from the point of no return. Just tell them that life looks tough right now, but just hang in there, hold on to my hand, and don’t give up! One small step, at a time!
- JASPRIYA GANDHOK