10th October is globally celebrated as World Mental Health Day since 1992, and this year is a landmark of sorts since it marks its 25th Anniversary. The theme this year is “mental health in the workplace” but before we talk about that in particular, I wonder how far have we really come as far as issues pertaining to mental health are concerned?
There are many who’d say they have sought help but had bad experiences in therapy, and hence decided to discontinue. India does not have a proper regulatory body for verifying the credentials of psychologists and counsellors and this lack of check often does more harm than good to people seeking help. It is also true that there is a dearth of mental health practitioners in our country to actually cater to mental health issues of those in need. In terms of statistics, India only has 43 state-run hospitals and three psychiatrists and 0.47 psychologists per million people in India (private institutions are numerous, but they do not always have legal registration and aren’t adequately monitored).
The World Health Organization (WHO) keeps telling us that 1 in 4 people will be affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, and around 450 million people, worldwide, suffer from these conditions at present, but if that is, indeed, the case, where are these people? Why do I not see them around me? Of course, the obvious answer is that the stigma attached to mental health is still very strong in our country, but is that reason enough to just brush mental health issues under the carpet?
Also, what is it about our society that is causing an individual to grapple with mental health? Is modern life not compatible with mental wellbeing? We are living at a time when globalization and technological advancement is at its peak, but are they also, despite their merits, impairing the well-being of communities? After all, we have lived through an economic crisis, seen people getting laid off, observed housing crises, seen a rise in levels of temporary employment and a plethora of other social and financial upheavals in the recent decades. Plus, we now live in the age of rising social media, subjecting us not only to more access to information and opportunities but also to scrutiny. The gap between the actual lives we lead versus what we portray on Instagram and Facebook has given rise to anxiety.
While it is true that mental health issues have always existed, the underlying causes have definitely transformed, and the paradigm shifts in modern-day society versus the yesteryears must be taken into consideration when drafting policies and implementing solutions because mental health is very much of a big problem in present day, and we must be armed well enough to tackle it.
The prevalence of mental health issues is so high that it would be a rare individual indeed who has not been affected by mental health at some point in life, whether himself/herself or a friend or a family member. Each one of us can do our bit – be it by challenging discriminatory attitudes towards mental health issues whenever we encounter them, or by remembering to include neighbours, friends, colleagues, relatives who may be lonely or depressed, by easing the burden of each other’s many modern pressures with greater consideration, tolerance and understanding at home and at the work-place.
Small acts of kindness go a long way. They can have the power to transform lives – even to save them. The modern struggle for mental health will be a long and difficult one, but on this day, we can take comfort in knowing that each one of us has the capability of making a difference by exercising the simple power of compassion. Here is a small list of things you could do to get you started:
- Write “thank you” letters or a “note of gratitude” to someone who’s presence in your life you appreciate, but have never really told them about it (I did that recently, and it works like a charm – makes the other person feel fabulous, and you feel good too for having been capable of eliciting such a response).
- Do a chore for someone without them knowing and see how it brightens up thier mood! We all hate attending to household tasks after a long, hard day at work. Imagine how wonderful it would feel if we came home and saw that the dishes were done and all the clothes were washed, folded and ironed? Go do that for someone!
- Compliment a friend and see them blush and smile!
- Pay for someone’s toll – instead of cursing the crazy traffic, they’ll have something else to reflect on for a change!
- Leave happy notes around town – I had a friend who used to do that, and I started doing it too! It makes a difference 🙂
- Call a friend you haven’t seen in a while just to say ‘hello’ and catch up with them. You might end up being just the person they needed at that time.
- Spread smiles everywhere. Smile at a stranger, smile at a friend, smile at everyone. It’s contagious!
I also came across this assessment tool that provides an overview of effective strategies to maintain self-care. Download it, and after completing the full assessment, choose one item from each area that you will actively work to improve. If you feel the need to avail counselling and psychotherapy services for yourself or your loved ones, feel free to get in touch with us. Begin your journey for peace of mind today!