No Band-Aids for Brain?

Image credits: Armando Faigl – 2013

By Sarah Koul

SCHOOLS can be tough. Worse now, as students are exposed to a world which is beyond the walls of their homes or their schools. It is evident then that students today face challenges which are not only much more but quite new. In Kashmir, with the political situation serving uncertainties and recent trysts with covid-19; students have at hand, issues that are not limited to home assignments. Adolescent kids especially have very new struggles, most of which can be detrimental to their mental wellbeing.

In schools, we often rush to the health bay or what they’d call a dispensary for a sudden fever, a stomach ache or a game bruise. This is because the school administration recognises the need to ensure safety and physical wellbeing of students. However, little is done to mitigate the effects of life on a student’s mental health. School counselors often double up as the moral police of school administration and are rarely ever trained to counsel students the right way.

Perhaps this complete disregard of mental health stems from an overall ignorance of our society towards mental health issues.

While growing up, everyone has been taught to take care of their health and wellbeing. We have been taught that ‘health is wealth’, taught to eat healthy foods to avoid catching a disease, we tend to adopt lifestyles that aid physical wellbeing. But has anyone ever exactly explained what is meant by ’health’ and a ‘healthy life’ holistically? Is it a state of physical wellbeing only? Does it simply mean the absence of disease? The World Health Organisation states that the word ‘health’ determines "a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease and infirmity".

However, we mostly tend to ignore the part that says “mental and social wellbeing”. As a community, we have stigmatised even the mere suggestion of mental health. We have somehow created an impression that mental health is a hoax and it does not exist. WHO statistics say that over 7,00,000 people die due to suicide every year induced by depression. Suicide is the fourth leading cause of threat in 15–29-year-olds. About 14.3% of deaths worldwide, or approximately 8 million deaths each year, are attributable to mental disorders.

Can we declare coronavirus a hoax while we clearly see millions dying and suffering due to the disease? Then why do we ignore the importance of mental health even after we have data suggesting that millions suffer from depression, anxiety, trauma and people even killing themselves because of it. Our idea of a healthy individual is restricted to physical aspects only even as so many continue to remain mentally crippled.

What is the significance of a healthy body without a healthy mind?

The importance of good mental health reflects in everything we do, think, or say. Our habits and prolificacy depend directly upon the ability of our mind to concentrate and interpret. A healthy state of mind promotes productive outputs and thus makes a person more capable of achieving his ends. Living with a constantly anxious and tumultuous mind can be very confusing and at times can take a toll on your daily life chores and even your social life. An unhealthy mind can lead you to struggle for survival, while you could rather be living your best life.

Yet the whole idea of mental wellbeing is an alien concept to most people especially in Kashmir. Our society normalises potentially criminal and unethical behaviour but has unfortunately stigmatised the idea of mental health.  Our society views people with mental illnesses as ‘outcasts’, completely oblivious of the fact that it is rarely uncommon in a place like Kashmir. Having a mentally healthy mind does not only mean that there is an absence of a major mental illness such as dementia or bipolar disorder, it also means a mind free of concerns that we disregard as ‘little’ or ‘insignificant’, such as anxiety and depression.

The cause of concern is not the existence of mental illnesses but denial about the significance of a healthy mind. In the 21st century, while humanity has peaked in developmental spheres, it is condemnable that something as important as mental health is still being stigmatised. While we should have been enroute to developing more and better ways to help people cope with illnesses such as depression, anxiety, trauma, psychosis, paranoia, obsessive compulsive disorder, bipolar disorder and other mental health issues, we are still only finding ways to spread awareness about it.

While the process of spreading ample education regarding the importance of psychological wellbeing should have been sped up, it is the least rapid. It is high time that society de-stigmatises the concept of mental health. While the society may stigmatise or discriminate against a mentally unhealthy individual, at times, it is internalised stigma that affects individuals making them believe that their concerns and problems are invalid.

Moreover, the generational gap also caters to stereotyping of mental health. Generation Z or Gen Z is the only generation that contemporarily emphasises on the issue.Thus, your sibling and friends may be supportive pillars for you to identify and seek help for your mental health issues but your parents don’t. Many people among the older generations may not have even heard about the notion of psychological health, because it is like a little clan of the new generation that keeps talking about it on platforms that older generations mostly don’t even know about. But significantly, generation Z became the largest generation, constituting 32 percent of the global population — or 2.47 billion of the 7.7 billion people on Earth. Which also signifies that many taboos and stereotypes will itself wither away in a set time frame, with the advancement of civilisation, these taboos will no longer remain relevant. It is extremely foolish of us to let ourselves suffer owing to a set of non-permanent stereotypes.

People suffering with any sort of mental disorder, even anxiety or stress should seek help from their family, friends and most importantly professional mental health experts. The stigma around mental wellbeing is diminishing every day, but it cannot end until we pledge to normalise it ourselves, by incorporating ways and means of achieving a healthy mind into our daily lives. We have to normalise the concept of psychological health, visiting a psychiatrist or counsellor, treating mental illnesses, talking about it, raising more awareness, and most importantly acknowledging the importance of keeping a check on our mental health. One should adopt habits that prevent stress, anxiety and depression.

Pleasing someone at the cost of your mental health is indeed a very foolish choice. People in our society, mostly tend to ignore their own psychological needs, and rather cater to people who may at times be responsible for the unhealthy mental state of that person. We have to realise that people-pleasing is not as important as taking care of our psyche. We have to start prioritising ourselves rather than those whose actions affect us negatively. An unhealthy mind will never let a person be at peace, it is almost as if a voice inside your brain constantly repeats all the bad things to you, making you uncomfortable and miserable. Some preconceived notions are not more important than your wellbeing. You have to acknowledge mental health and fight for yourself to lead a happy and healthy life- physically, mentally and socially.

Views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the editorial stance of Kashmir Observer

  •  The author is a student

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