Mindful Fridays: Mental Health Q&A

   Illustration credits: Ben The Illustrator

This column is intended to democratise the discussions around mental health. Recently, we published a call out for questions related to mental health for our readers. These questions have been answered below by mental health professionals. To send us your questions, write to us at [email protected]

By Nadia Ishfaq Nahvi

What should be done to reduce the stigmatization of mental health and asking for assistance in case someone feels the need to do so?

Stigmatization is a very common thing in our society and culture. Stigmatization about mental illness is when one feels afraid to disclose the bothersome issues to someone they know for the fear that they may be judged, they may be called weak, or that they may be given names and deemed Pagal/Insane/Mad. 

Always remember that it is the sign of utmost strength and not the weakness when one asks for help. It greatly defines how willing one is to keep oneself sane and protected and maintain peace of mind. After all, keeping yourself mentally healthy is not being selfish.  Think of it in this way, when a person breaks his leg; you don’t call him lame you take him to a specialist. Ironically, one brags about having diabetes or taking pills for hypo/hyperthyroidism. But when it comes to our state of being- “the mental health” we suffer alone. The time when you need to be talking about it you hide it.

It is always appropriate to seek professional help (Clinical Psychologists/ Psychiatrists) than asking the same from the ones you are afraid of reaching or someone who does not have the required expertise. This can cause complications which even weren’t there at all. This happened during the pandemic when people sought help from those who weren’t professionals. Later when the patients came up to professionals it was difficult for us to remove the biases that they have been taught earlier.  A person can always reach out to a licenced clinical psychologist or a counselor working under a licensed clinical psychologist so there are little chances of getting carried away by random talking and more chances of getting a technical professions conversation.

What are some root causes of the stigma attached to Mental health issues? 

Causes can be varied depending upon the society that we are in. In our case, it is mostly lack of awareness and education regarding the same. When our elders would hear about someone going to a mental hospital they would share the news in whispers and not in a natural tone. The name tags associated with it like Oruk yoruk, Pagal, Jinn Chaaamut, charsi  to name a few make it very difficult to reach out to a mental health expert.

How can we differentiate between general sadness and anxiety issues?

Sadness is per se not a saddening condition to be worried about unless it stays for a very long duration (not more than 14 days). Sadness is a state of being unhappy, which might be a causative factor of any untoward event which directly or indirectly had played a part in a person’s life. You may be feeling sad because you spent most of your time thinking about the unwanted past events. Sadness may appear to be feelings like that of a heavy heart, unhappy mood but it does not make one’s socio-occupational life dysfunctional. The person can still go to the office, do house chores and perform day to day activities. Sadness when persisted for longer or not taken care of can eventually lead to dysthymia or even depressive states. Psychotherapy, mindfulness, being in a better support system and a few activity scheduling have proven to be very beneficial and helpful in coming out of the crises of sad emotions.

Anxiety on the other hand is an apprehension that something untoward will happen in the future without any proper or rational ground for the same. In anxiety, one can feel extremely worried or show an intense fear towards something which most of the times disturbs one’s day to day functioning. Oftentimes, a person is found to produce better results when feeling anxious e.g. when preparing for an exam one does feel worried but that is making them study effectively. Anxiety at an optimum level will do no harm but once the boundaries are crossed, anxiety can prove to be interfering and hence can take a toll on one’s peace of mind.

Is procrastination a mental health issue? Can it become debilitating or chronic?

Procrastination is a deliberate and conscious attempt to delay a particular work in order to avoid the unnecessary stress associated with it. The pleasure in avoiding the situation reinforces the person to continue to procrastinate the things. Some people procrastinate because they have their set firm beliefs about themselves that they are not anyway capable enough so what’s the point of working, or that they might not do good enough, their work might be a huge disaster ( sometimes these cognitive distortions may be an indication that person is suffering from depressive disorder). These negative thoughts keep getting stronger as the more they delay, little is the effort they put to work and hence poorer results. They get worried about the end results even before the work is started. This leads to anxiety like features e.g. avoidance,worrying excessively, restlessness.

More or less depressive features like loss of motivation,  decreased interest,  fatigability makes a person procrastinate.

For some others, procrastination is a part of their usual way of working and mostly they do fairly well. But for those who cannot face the challenges of procrastination, it makes their work way too disturbed which ultimately leads to an adverse effect on bodily needs like sleeping and eating patterns.

So, when you feel like procrastinating:

  • be aware that this might be harmful, be mindful about it and immediately get up and do the task;
  • break the task in segments and go for easier ones first.
  • Take small breaks and continue working.

Views expressed in the articles are the author’s own responsibility. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and is strictly for educational/informative purposes only. 

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