Mental health and the social stigma around it

The Tabooed Ailment

Have you ever felt really happy? So happy that, it becomes impossible to imagine what normal feels like? Well, we all have such rare moments from which we can’t get back. A state of euphoric bliss experienced more in our childhood that depletes as we age. Do you know? Whenever you feel that joy, our body releases: dopamine that causes pleasure-seeking behavior, endorphin that reduces pain, Anandamide (derived from the Sanskrit word ‘Ananda’ meaning bliss) that maintains ecstasy and about a 100 more neurochemicals.

Happiness is wonderful! I know. Except, the dark side is – the same happens when one feels self-deflatingly depressed. One can’t get back to normal. One feels helpless; crushed; drained-out; anxious; and nihilistic. Such a person needs medicine, not philosophy.

I often find people using the word – ‘depressed’ casually whenever they feel dull, drunk, dumped, or drowsy. If you feel anything like that then you are just bummed out, ordinary- rather, a little extra-ordinary. These are all passive states of mind. Mental Illness is a negatively active state of mind. Symptoms of depression can have a wide range from trouble sleeping and eating, to persistent anxiety and sadness, recurring episodes of hopelessness, overeating, fatigue, a sudden switch from sadness to calmness, desperately pretending to be happy, taking risks, tying up loose ends, changing wills, and finally- death.

I once asked my brother about his friend who was diagnosed as clinically depressed, he recalled her sentences quite vividly – “It felt like I am living through the blank pages of my fate. Wish I had a way to erase it!”, she said. The most important thing that our society must be sensitive to is the fact that the cause of the behavior of a mentally ill person is rooted within him. Therefore, changing situations around him will not change anything significant.

Suicide is the leading cause of death in India among 15-29 years. This is not a mere statistic, but a statement to the world – “In our country, people kill themselves more than they get killed by others”, and we have the time to blame politicians. Yes, I know, we all want to do something about it, and that’s the extent of our concern. Here’s what I propose – How about being a little sensitive with people around? 1 in 7 people are mentally ill in our country. Well, it may not be your friend, but it might be you. Recognise mental health as an actual issue, instead of tossing it under the carpet, just because you are not ready to accept it. Don’t call someone lazy or unmotivated, they’re fighting their own battles that they can’t share. So, be kind to everyone, including yourself.

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