Updated: Oct 6, 2020
It is my favourite time of the year. No, not just because is my favourite season.
This month is a dedication to a cause which is close to my heart.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month for the United States since 1949.
I belong to a country that became Republic that very year and won't even dedicate a single day to Mental Health, which is why this month becomes even more significant for me. Born to two working parents who were never around, the television practically raised me. Preferring American shows over their Indian counterparts, made a huge impact on my thought process and my perception towards issues like 'Mental Health'.
Every May I would see all my favourite talk show hosts dedicating segments to preach about the importance of mental health. I have been craving for that kind of openness in my own country, but so far there hasn't been much light thrown to the area. When I think about instances where famous people from the country spoke up about the issue, only Deepika Padukone comes to mind and that too happened five years ago.
Mental health issues are the reason behind most suicides. The suicide rate in India is 16.4/ 100,000 which is more than the world's rate of 10.5. If this is not something that signifies the importance of Mental health awareness I don't know what is.
But why does the land of yoga can't deal with Mental Health?
The reason is straightforward, we are scared.
The Stigma Associated with Mental Health Issues is one of the major reason that prevents people from talking about it. Everything in the country is divided into good or bad, holy or evil. Mental problems were no exception to this categorisation, they are considered an act of the evil forces which makes people shy away from talking about it.
The low literacy rate can be another factor that let misconceptions bloom and prevent the spread of accurate information. This holds for sex so how mental health break free.
The outlook of government and the entire population towards the subject is another factor that hampers development in the field. There are uncountable engineering schools but not a single psychology school. The field is not given the importance it deserves by anyone, be it the authorities or the general population.
You might be thinking what is your role in all of this, you were already aware of the issue but what can you do to initiate a change. You might not see it now, but you can do plenty to help Mental health gain the place it deserves.
Want to know how?
Here's a list of things you can incorporate in your life to help spread awareness. They are not hard things, don't worry.
1. Watch your words: How many times have you described someone who loves to clean as OCD, your friend who did something stupid as crazy or your friend who gets disappointed often as depressed. We all tend to use words associated with mental problems as jokes, we think that we are being funny but in reality, we are preventing others from speaking up about their issues. They are already suffering and the last thing they want is to be a laughing stock, so instead of coming forward they just keep it inside until it destroys them.
2. Use Social Media Mindfully: We all are addicted to our social media handles, we always aim to be relevant, funny and liked by our virtual friends. In this constant pressure to share content we might end up putting something across that could influence someone's outlook towards their situation. A person with an anxiety disorder might never seek help as he/she may assume that all his friends sharing quotes about anxiety are fighting the same battle. Also, a relevant cry for help may be ignored in this overproduction of memes and sad quotes. Start sharing and forwarding content that would spread awareness and not misconceptions.
3. Speak up and encourage: If you think you or someone you know suffers from a mental disorder, encourage them to talk about it and get relevant help. Due to shame, most people don't come forward with their issues. A little change in mindset can make a lot of difference, if you come forward and that inspires one person to come forward can you even imagine the difference this chain could make.
4. Do your research: We belong to a country where free advice is available on all corners. So much information and opinions are present everywhere that we believe what we like instead of what's true and start preaching about the same without checking the facts. Check the validity of advice before sharing it with anyone, even if you have a good intention in your mind. Your unresearched advice can cost someone their well being.
5. Make it normal: Incorporate mental health issues into your routine conversations. You don't have friends only to gossip and party, sometimes taking a break from the chaos and talking about things that matter can make all the change in the general perception.
*Go an extra mile:
If you want to help by making an extra effort, don't be afraid to do it. Stop procrastinating and start now. Think of innovative ideas about how you can spread awareness. You can create art related to the same, use the connections you have, study clinical psychology, make a career out of it or organise support groups. It is up to you and the sky is the limit.
The change is gonna come for our country and every effort is going to accelarate the process. Don't be afraid to play your part, who knows if your tiniest deed could change someone's life forever.
I hope that India doesn't have an entire month dedicated to mental health awareness in the future but dedicates every day of every year to the cause. Be a part to revolutionalize mental health awareness for our country.