Neha Pundeer, Psychotherapist, New York, USA
The main barrier to seeking mental health support in our country is the fear of being labelled as a PAGAL. The other reason is definitely lack of education around mental health disorders. Mental illness in our culture is merely perceived as a behavioral issue. And the most accepted treatment for such behavior in our culture has dominantly been either punishment or ignorance. What people are oblivious about is the biological aspect of mental health issues.
People don’t understand that mental health issues are as chronic and severe in nature as illnesses like diabetes or cardiovascular diseases. Mental health probably doesn’t directly impact our pancreas or heart, but it certainly impacts our brain. Chemical imbalances in brain, genetics, brain anomaly are some of the reason behind mental health disorders that many are unaware of.
Number of scientific researches have proven reduced brain functionality and brain shrinkage in people with severe mental health disorders like depression and schizophrenia. But, the stigma and taboo around mental health in our community is so ingrained that these scientific explanations are often overlooked.
The recent statistics further explains the debilitating power of mental health issues around the globe. A report by the World Health Organization (W.H.O) revealed that 7.5 per cent of the Indian population suffers from some form of mental disorder. W.H.O also predicted that by this year roughly 20 per cent of India will suffer from mental illnesses.
Currently, considering the current COVID-19 pandemic, it is expected that there will be a spike in percentage of depression and anxiety issues not just in India but all over the world. Yet, we are just concerned and focused about the current pandemic while ignoring this ongoing, decades old mental health pandemic.
As we know unfortunately, there is still ongoing struggle to find most reliable & effective treatment for Covid-19, but fortunately there are clinically proven, successful treatment options for mental health in this pandemic. The way you can begin the treatment is by: Learning, not to say “I am fine” when you are not feeling fine. Then, speaking up, because there are people willing to listen to you and help you, you just have to find the right person to talk to. Lastly, try and educate yourself about common mental health issues like depression and anxiety. More you know about causes, impact and available treatment for these issues, more confident you will be in supporting your own mental health and/or mental health of your loved ones.