TNN Bureau. Updated: 11/27/2017 1:35:59 PM Edit and Opinion

Chirdeep Malhotra

Mental health is an integral and essential component of health, and does not simply mean the absence of mental disorders. It is a state of well-being in which an individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and is able to make a contribution to the community. Mental disorders are due to specific psychological or personality factors which make one vulnerable, and there are also some biological causes, including genetic factors, which contribute to imbalances in chemicals in the brain. These include a wide range of conditions that affect mood, thinking and behaviour; the list including common entities that we hear in general conversations like anxiety and panic attacks,depression, OCD (Obsessive Compulsive disorder), stress, bipolar disorder to slightly rare entities like Schizophrenia, mania, Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) and Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).Certain types of sleeping and eating disorders also come in its fold.

Let’s come to the statistics. Depression is now the leading cause of ill health and disability worldwide, with about 350 million people affected globally. In India too, the situation is grim, with 56 million people, or 4.5% of India’s population, suffering from depression. Another 38 million suffer from anxiety, and almost 7.5% of Indians suffer from major or minor mental disorders that require expert intervention, according to a recent WHO report.

Poor mental health is associated with socio-economic pressures, rapid social change, stressful work conditions, risks of violence, physical ill-health and human rights violations. The theme of this year’s Mental Health Day is “Mental Health in the Workplace”, to address the value of promoting well-being in settings of all kinds, from agriculture to industry, finance, government, technology and beyond. It is pertinent to mention that according to a survey, 1 in 10 people have taken time off work for depression, taking an average of 36 days per episode.Depression, thus costs more to employers than is spent in managing it. Thus, investments should be made in the mental well-being of our work force too.

People should become more vocal to fight the social stigma surrounding mental illnesses. Actress DeepikaPadukone, in 2015, talked about her struggle to cope with depression, and also set up Live Love Laugh, a foundation to change attitudes and create awareness about mental disorders. One should always refer to resources of such organizations to make oneself aware of such issues.If one is in such a situation, one should talk to someone who cares about them. Professional help should always be sought out, in the form of doctors, counsellors or clinical psychologists and therapists. The government and people in positions of authority should also develop public policies and programs to make mental health a priority. Normalising attitudes of people and ongoing support from families, communities and services are a step in the right direction.

Thus, there needs to be a shift in the perception of the individual and the society, to remove stigmas associated with mental disorders. There are many notions about not going to psychiatrists and counsellors. People should know, that today, because of research and our knowledge of the brain, mental illnesses can be diagnosed and treated effectively, and the majority of those with these illnesses can recover and lead fulfilling lives- going to school, working, raising a family, and being productive citizens in their communities. It is imperative that everyone, especially the youth of today, takes an initiative and creates awareness about this, to make mental health care a reality for people worldwide.Holding interactive talks, organising awareness campaigns, collaborating with various mental health organizations and spreading this message through any medium, be it literary forums, theatre, street plays and other avenues would go a long way. Given my verve for poetry, I’ve composed a poem for espousing the cause of Mental Health. It would be great if everybody does their bit.

“Who says only hearts can be broken,

Sometimes, it’s mental agony that goes unspoken.

TV screens blare and people talk about jilted lovers,

Mental health issues seemingly remain under the covers.

If you’re feeling down or having blues,

Don’t stress out, Oh! Just let it loose.

If you’re depressed, we’re here, just converse,

Let’s advocate for mental health by singing this verse.

The author is presently pursuing MBBS from Government Medical College, Jammu.

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