Importance of Mental Health Awareness

“I know that for me, when I’m inside myself, when I’m in my own head, it gets… This place right here, [points to his head] this skull between my ears, this is a bad neighborhood, and I should not be in there alone. I can’t be in there by myself. It’s insane! It’s crazy in here. This is a bad place for me to be by myself. And so when I’m in that, my whole life gets thrown off. If I’m in there, I don’t say nice things to myself. There’s another Chester in there that wants to take me down.”
That’s part of the reply that Chester Bennington gave to host JoJo, who like many laughed it off with “That’s crazy man!” as Linkin Park lead vocalist sat for an interview for the Los Angeles radio station 102.7 KIIS FM in February 2017, months before he committed suicide on July 20, 2017. His wife, Talinda Benington tweeted on 16th September 2017, “My next tweet is the most personal tweet I have ever done. I’m showing this so that you know that depression doesn’t have a face or a mood,” before sharing a video which was filmed 36 hours before he took his life, in which we can see him having candies and spending time with his son.
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By definition, mental health steers our emotional, psychological, physical and social being. A statistical survey conducted by The Lancet showed that in India a major cause for the death of people between the age group of 15 to 39 years other than road accidents is suicide. So if it is, in fact, such a poignant condition which robs one of even the fundamental will to live, why is it that the society has turned a blind spot about it? If we consider brains to be more important than brawn, taking how Einstein’s brain was preserved and not Muhammad Ali’s arms, why has the society kept a hush-hush attitude towards mental well-being?
The Erwadi fire incident in 2001 is not the only example of how mental health is taken to be connected with some sort of supernatural boon or bane, in fact in the Persian Empire from 900 to 600 B.C., all physical and mental disorders were thought to be the curse of the devil. It was not just a contemplative theory that “madness” could be cured with beating, bloodletting, exorcism, incantations and other such physical impositions as suggested by Cornelius Celsus in his extant work De Medicina, but any kind of mood disorder was believed to be cured with it, as Shakespeare jibes, “Love is merely a madness; and, I tell you, deserves as well a dark house and a whip as madmen do,” in As You Like It.
With the #NotAshamed campaign initiated by The Live Love Laugh Foundation, Deepika Padukone encouraged people to talk about their struggle with mental illness but what a sad situation it is that not only do we have to encourage those suffering to open up but also everyone around to be more sensitive and accepting about this ailment as an ailment and not fixating the concerned person with an eternal identity of being “crazy”. Even a high fever makes us crave for love and care, but an alarming instance of the kind of treatment meted out to people with some mental disturbance is the Nazi genocide of psychiatric patients wherein tens of thousands of individuals with schizophrenia were sterilized or killed. Thus stigma breeds stigma by silencing people in the fear of social rejection or sensationalism. It’s beyond time to stop the child’s play of peekaboo as not talking about the problem doesn’t make it disappear but rather aggravates it by building a sense of isolation among the ones who suffer.
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While talking about her fight with depression in an interview with ABP News, Deepika Padukone confesses feeling empty for weeks and breaking down easily. Depression doesn’t work on a causation theory. In fact, Deepika or Taraji P. Henson’s voicing out almost dismisses the misconception of depression arising from a place of deprivation, be it economic, fame, or power. The popular teen drama 13 Reasons Why released in March 2017 produced much stir as it dealt with mental health issues as a result of bullying, abuse, peer pressure and most importantly being less-observant about the person often immediately next to you.
Depression and “over”-thinking is not an idle brain’s disease and it is imperative to humanize this issue. It neither is something which goes away from songs, food, and rock n’ roll nor something to be romanticized about, as is referred to as the “lover’s depression”. There are a couple of organizations which claim to offer support while strictly maintaining confidentiality like “Sneha” or “Lifeline”. Podcast by Dr. Shyam Bhatt is another enlightening source from which one can know about the impact the changing society has on one’s mind.  As much as a great support system plays an important role in the treatment of someone having depression, the need and that too without shame for professional guidance cannot be emphasized enough, in fact, a certain sort of sensitivity is expected on the part of professional help as well.
The reports of the National Mental Health Survey of India, 2015-16 made the media shout out, “India needs to talk about mental illness,” referring to its findings. One out of a four-member family has been found to have some mental health condition which requires clinical treatment. The Tamil movie “3”, directed by Aishwarya R. Dhanush explores bipolar disorder (also known as manic-depressive illness) through the lead character Ram (played by Dhanush). Though the film could be handled better, it opens the floor to questions regarding the “psycho” villain notion. It’s true that individual suffering too must be receptive of treatment, as the lead character here ultimately commits suicide, there are many who do not ever go for a diagnosis. In this case, since people generally look up to celebrities, singers like Demi Lovato speaking up about struggling with bipolar disorder, cutting, bulimia, and drug addiction helps to touch base one person, one fan at a time. She has been advocating for the “Be Vocal: Speak Up For Mental Health” campaign; initiatives like these finally probe the perception of “weakness” attached to someone experiencing a mental health condition. Substance abuse, which includes overuse of psychoactive substances like illicit drugs (amphetamines, cocaine, legal highs, magic mushrooms, etc.) is a growing cause of concern as it leads to substance-related disorders which has caused about 307, 400 deaths as of 2017
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An apparent case of suicide in 2015 gained much public attention when the Kolkata police found skeletons in the closet of the 77-year old man living in Robinson Street. On June 10 same year, police found the charred body of Arabinda De, who was thought to be suffering from depression. However, the house gained its epithet “hanabari” (haunted house) when Partha, Arabinda’s son was found to be residing in his flat with a fully-clothed skeleton, which according to him was of his sister, along with two bags of bones which belonged to their pet dogs. After being sent to the Kolkata Pavlov Mental Hospital, Partha was diagnosed with schizophrenia and delusional disorder. People with schizophrenia are somewhat detached from reality, they lack the fundamental sense of right and wrong that we have constructed. But their rehabilitation and psychosocial intervention are frequently neglected which explains Partha’s suicide, who was discharged after only a three-month treatment period. A non-governmental organisation (NGO) based in Chennai, SCARF, is committed to schizophrenia care and research since 1984.
Being on a staple diet of Terminator(s), ETs and Aliens, the Indianised Sci-Fi “Koi Mil Gaya” sank for some while swam for others, where Hrithik plays the role of an adult with the mind of an eleven-year-old. Though initially the movie deals with autism and how spontaneously Rohit (played by Hrithik) is referred to as “mad”, such as by Raj (played by Rajat Bedi), Nisha’s (played by Preity Zinta) suitor, the movie moves on to treat Rohit’s “disability”, with the help of “Jadoo”, by fitting him into the conventional masculinist gender model as he gets muscles and shows off his “prowess” in a basketball match. We see a discourse of “male” and “normal” or “other” and “mad” as Hrithik delivers an intriguing dialogue on “pagalpan”(madness) in which he states how shaking one’s leg in tension also comes under “pagalpan”. Whilst hoping that it rather was a display of sarcasm, people with Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) do shake their legs or have other parts of their body trembling because of being in a fight-or-flight mode in response to an anticipated situation of danger. Overwhelming anxiety and fear can often lead to panic attacks characterized by elevated heart rate, difficulty in breathing and other symptoms which if left untreated leads to panic disorder.
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In a world which idealizes the image of an individual living a perfect life as fed by advertisements and posters, where happiness can be bought and can “also” be found in things outside the material world, irritation, disappointment, and self-doubt is an epidemic. Albeit Intermittent Explosive Disorder (IED) is an impulse-control disorder typified by hostility and recurrent aggressive outbursts. Anger is a natural emotion and might be a defense mechanism that can be managed with the required care and attention but unprecedented anger leading to abuse or violence requires professional treatment.

The National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (NIMHANS) in Bangalore is known for providing high standard clinical care for mental health including residential services so that family members, too, get to learn how to take care after the clinical treatment. To sum up, discussions about mental health, even if it involves talking about suicidal tendency, must be developed within our daily conversation as much as physical health. We must understand that the utopian image of a happy mind residing in a perfect physique is something we have built up ourselves and failing to adhere to this imaginary standard must not generate discrimination.
- Simreen Biswas


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Importance of Mental Health Awareness Importance of Mental Health Awareness Reviewed by EMN on March 26, 2019 Rating: 5

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