Need of the Hour: Mental Health Awareness

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Health, as described by the World Health Organization, “is a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing and not merely the absence of any disease or infirmity” It’s been an ongoing trend since a decade and more now, where people tend to not see through all these dimensions of health. It is safe to say that there has always been a discrimination towards physical and mental health. Mental health tends to take a backseat and get ignored when physical health comes into the frame, or even otherwise. Mental health issues like depression, anxiety are least looked up to, not only by the people suffering from it, but also by physicians and the primary care givers. According to the World Health Organisation fact sheet, about 450 million people are mental health sufferers, which makes mental disorders among the leading causes of ill health and disability worldwide . It also states that, one in four people in the world will suffer from mental or neurological disorders at some point in their life . There is not just one cause responsible for the state of mind, a person suffering from a mental health disorder would have. However, leaving aside the causes for now, there’s a question, more worrisome, as to why are mental disorders still prevalent? And why are the number of people suffering from them, on an increase? I would not deny the fact that we are trying to do our bit and best, about making people aware of these issues, so that they identify them and act towards it, but we still have a long way to go. Mental health issues are gripping the world today, and are on an upswing due to several factors. There’s a lot of stigma associated to mental health , speaking about these disorders, and sharing it with people. Lack of awareness of these issues, thereby makes it worse. More often than not, people from all around the world have different views, opinions and beliefs about mental health. Differences in the culture, traditions, beliefs form a major cause for the way the whole mental health scenario has been shaped, globally. And lastly, stress experienced due to initial childhood trauma, physical violence and abuse which could lead to drugs and alcohol dependency are one of the leading factors which contributes to the fate of mental health today .

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“There is no country, society or culture where people with mental illness have the same societal value as people without a mental illness”. That, right there is stigma. People often refuse to talk, share about their condition, or their feelings because they fear judgement from others. Stigmatizing people who are mentally unhealthy has been a very common practise and is still followed in certain parts of the world. Stigma often can be corelated to stereotyping and prejudices. Mentally unhealthy people are constantly are called out separately for possessing certain characteristics, traits, or feeling a certain way which normally tends to be different from people who are mentally healthy. But that does not mean we subject them to stereotypes. People normally tend to maintain distance from mentally unhealthy people, just because they feel that these people would harm them physically, they do not even trust them and consider them as someone irresponsible. People have certain common notions or opinions towards mentally ill people. For example, a common perception towards schizophrenics by people is describing them as not trustworthy with their actions and dangerous. These kind of beliefs about them creates a wrong idea about people suffering from the condition. It tends to have a negative impact on them and also about them in the society eventually leading to discrimination . This makes mental health all the more difficult to deal with. Hence, people suffering from it feel the need to keep quiet rather than sharing what they are going through. They withdraw themselves from each and every activity, situations, social groups, friends, family. They follow a pattern of social isolation and eventually go into social retreat where they would avoid being around people including their near and dear ones. Stigma is not limited to just stereotyping and prejudices, it also differs when it comes to the type of disorder the person is suffering from. People would normally like to maintain a greater social distance from a person suffering from a medical related etiological disorder like schizophrenia than from someone going through depression. A study conducted where 27 countries were part of it indicated that almost 50% of the schizophrenic patients reported of discrimination in their relationships, and about 2/3 of these people feared of it, socially, or in their work environment. For however long stigma would be prevalent in the society regarding these issues, it’ll be difficult for mentally unhealthy people to come out with their condition in the open and also for mentally healthy people to accept them and try and help them out in whatever way they could. It is necessary that people understand and become aware about the difficulties they go through, and encourage them to speak up rather than giving in, in the web of stigma.

All over the world, people have a different perception towards mental health. There are stark differences because each of the places embrace a different culture, a set of beliefs towards any issue, the way things are done there. It is not regarded as negative all over the world, but at places where people hold a different set of values and traits. In many developing countries people choose to speak openly about it whereas, in the other countries they refuse to accept facts about it, consider it evil, or even non relevant at times. Cultural differences tend to crop up here. Asian studies suggest that somatic and organic factors cause these mental health disorders and thus they prefer to go with physical treatment. On the other hand, Chinese people believe that these issues occur due to an imbalance in the cosmic forces, they try to sort these issues by focusing on relationships, watching what they eat and the amount of physical activity they do. Many people even disregard being mentally unhealthy as possession by the evil, controlled by supernatural forces and other superstitious beliefs. All this is a result of lack of awareness of these disorders. There are places where they still do not have enough resources, experienced doctors, care givers who can take responsibility and help people who are suffering from these disorders.

Children or teenagers, as young as 13- 15 yrs. these days, are going through stress and on the brink of developing unhealthy mental behaviour. The underlying factor responsible for this kind of their mental state can be pointed out to developmental stress. Adverse childhood conditions, homelessness, loss of parents, witnessing any kind of violence, going through physical violence, rapes, harassment, physical abuse, fights all these are markers which can cause the person to get depressed or can plant the seeds for eventual mental disorders . These conditions are said to affect the functioning of the brain and create a huge impact which can be carried forward in the person’s life ahead . One thing leads to another and very easily these children who grow up to become teenagers easily seek dependency of drugs and alcohol. Studies show evidence that children who have seen or experienced physical violence, abuse, and fights when they were little are more likely to become drug dependants, substance abusers, and alcoholic dependants. Naturally, when people go through adversities like these, early on in their lives, they tend to develop a help seeking behaviour through unusual means like these. This kind of substance abuse easily lead to anxiety and mood disorders. It can get so severe that the individual would consider his/her basic necessity for survival. It not only harms their mental health but there is deterioration in their physical health as well. It is very important to identify such kind of behaviour so that unnecessary consequences in the future could be avoided. Presence of friends, family and well wishers is of great value when dealing with conditions like these. Seeking professional medical help should be a priority in such cases. If not tackled early, these individuals are bound to resort towards suicide as an option even attempt it. A study done in 1988 says that suicide attempt rates among adolescents who do not have a home or a family, have shot up from 18% to 53%. The thought of committing a suicide not only gets to the homeless, but it tends to grip every individual who has had dark experiences in the past, depending on the severity of affection by these issues.

Mental Health has been an ongoing grave issue since quite sometime now. It has been looked down upon and we have been failing to give it the attention it actually needs. After discussing the factors above, there is a need to eradicate the stigma associated towards it, educate and make people aware about the seriousness of the issue. According to the fact file by World Health Organisation, about 8,00,000 people die every year due to suicide. It also forms the second leading cause of death in the 15-29 year olds. Mental health is as important as physical health, in many cases rather more important than physical health. Awareness about these issues is the need of the hour, so that necessary steps can be taken towards cutting off mental health issues through better management of them and increasing the number of resources which can help us tackle these issues easily.

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