• 10 Apr
    Yakata Sharma

    Mental illness and society


    Human Psychology always fascinated Reema. She was quite excited to opt Psychology as her optional subject in high school. She remembers---“One night prior to my stream selection day,  I discussed my choice of subject with my Parents. Neither of my parents took me seriously and even jokingly said, “Ab tum kya pagalo ka ilaaj krogi?” and that was the beginning of my fight against the society towards mental health and illness.” And against my parents wish I studied psychology! Reema is not alone in this fight…

    The lifestyle of Generation X has turned topsy turvy with an advancement in information and technology, which has challenged society in various ways. Live-in relationships, Delayed marriages/no marriages, homosexuality, house-husbands, and most importantly, mental illness and its treatment. 

    Indians till today prefer to delay treatment courses for psychological problems like schizophrenia, hysteria, depression and suicidal ideation, anxiety disorders, Learning disabilities, Autism spectrum disorders etc. and if somehow manage to undergo treatment, prefer to keep it under the wrap.

    “It becomes a task to inform Parents about their wards condition. ‘Sir, your daughter has dyslexia. She will excel in life, undoubtedly, but if not treated in time, will definitely affect her academic score.’ The Parents were not ready to accept the reality and did not come for the further treatment program.”----shared a well-known School Counselor.

    Another Psychologist shared “People don’t want to accept the prevalence of Hysteria among school students. It’s a major contributor in continuous absenteeism in students at schools. It would have been very easy for the parents to accept, had it been a neurological issue but in case of psychological disorders they prefer to remain in denial which is even worse. We feel helpless in such cases. And the situation becomes graver with the passage of time.” 

    Moreover, the Indian society judges people irrespective of their gender, age, occupation or family background. Seeking mental health assistance for any reason becomes the topic of discussion within the groups. They don’t understand that mental health assistance is not confined with mental health problems. People can approach mental health professionals for any situation/problem which challenges mental balance thereby affecting their day-to-day activities.

    Problems may vary from relationship break-up, failure in examination, over-expectation of parents, job dissatisfaction, marital discord, substance-use/abuse, not able to identify purpose of life, non-assertiveness, aggression, confusion about career choices, helicopter parenting at home, discordant family, procrastination, commitment issues and so on….which do affect ones’ work-life balance.

    Why mental illness is not considered as grave as other medical conditions like cancer and diabetes? Why do people still feel hesitant to talk freely about it? Why do the needy ones remain skeptic about consulting a mental health professional? Why do they have to hide about the treatment program? Why??

    Firstly, it is important to understand what actually is mental illness? Is it “madness” as quoted by Reema's parents? By far, Mental illness is a clinically significant condition/ pattern of a person's behavior or thinking. It is as grave as other medical conditions and requires immediate medical attention.

    Had it not been the increased suicide cases of students in Kota or other college campuses in India, government wouldn’t have initiated “de-stressing students program” at state and national levels. Keeping in mind the gravity of the situation at school level, CBSE made it mandatory to appoint Counselors/Psychologists in all CBSE affiliated schools to attend various plights of students. At college level, counseling cells work all round the year and act vigilantly especially during examinations (the most vulnerable time for suicides). 

    With advancement in technology there are numerous platforms which provide online mental health sessions and counseling to people who feel bothered about the “social tagging” and prefer not to consult a psychologist/counselor in-person.   

    It is crucial to stand together to fight against the social taboo attached with mental illness. Orientation about mental issues organized for different groups of the society especially the “so-called educated” group is a dire need of the hour. Various other initiatives taken by government as well as non-government organizations to throw light on different aspects of mental illness and treatment at college and community levels are applaudable.

    But WE as a society still need to grow and support the people who are suffering from mental illness rather than enhancing their plight further…..!     


  • 10 Mar
    Yakata Sharma

    Facebook: A book to be read with caution!

     cyber bullying

    “Hey! Today there was a workshop on cyber bullying and security in school. You missed such an insightful session” - Shalini informed Roma in the evening while they were playing on the ground.

    “Cyber bullying! What is it exactly?” asked Roma

    “You don’t know what’s cyber bullying? Oh C’mon! You remain active 24*7 on social networking sites, Facebook, twitter and what not, and you are asking me what is cyber bullying! Well, Cyber bullying is troubling someone, typically by sending threatening and intimidating messages via electronic medium i.e. Internet.” –Shalini

    “Really! How will somebody threaten you on Facebook? People join Facebook to enhance their social life.”--Roma

    “Let me just correct you it’s more of a Virtual* social life.”—Shalini

    “What’s the difference?”—Roma

    “Well Virtual social life is where you don’t meet the individual ‘in person’ to interact with him/her. Maintaining relationships, friendships on virtual social media is way easier than the actual world. Now don’t give me those ‘surprised looks’.” ---Shalini laughed aloud seeing Roma in a pensive mode.

    “Coming back to your question that how can people be bullied on Facebook? Nowadays it has become a trend to share every minute detail about one’s personal life on Facebook and give an easy pathway to others to create havoc in their life. The majority of teenagers gets bullied on the internet and they don’t even realize it. Don’t look so puzzled Roma.” said Shalini

    “Last year a family came to reside in the neighborhood. The girl was 15 years old and we became best of friends like real soon. She told me about her latest crush whom she found on Facebook. The guy was a total stranger to her; even then that girl accepted his friend request and soon started chatting with him for hours. Within a couple of months the boy proposed the girl to be his girlfriend. She already was ‘madly in love’ with him and without thinking twice she agreed to the proposal. During those long hours of chat she exchanged her personal information, family details etc. with him and never thought twice that it might get her in trouble someday.”

    “Eventually lack of concentration and attention in studies and increased Facebook usage affected her academics. Her social life also was affected badly, for at home she preferred to lock herself in her room. She hardly interacted with her parents. Soon her parents got to know the real reason. They didn’t yell at her, but instead guided her to focus on studies. Keeping in mind her parents’ insight she controlled her Facebook usage and now she only logged in to Facebook once a day. The boy on the other hand got to know about the scenario and tried to brainwash her. He told her not to get affected by it at all because parents only ‘lecture’ their kids whenever possible. In spite of his consistent efforts she stopped using Facebook completely.”

    “One day out of desperation the guy stalked her while she was coming back to home and splashed acid on her face and ran away.” concluded Shalini and left Roma speechless.

     “While working on social networking sites especially Facebook one should always keep in mind a few tips to remain safe:

    • One should NOT add RANDOM people on Facebook. Check if there is good number of MUTUAL FRIENDS? I mean if there are 7 to 10 mutual friends then check whether those mutual friends are actual/real friends or merely virtual friends.


    • While chatting on Facebook one should NOT disclose personal details. If the person sitting on the other side of the screen is interested in knowing more about personal information then it’s a red flag to become alert.”


    • Do not share any personal photos or videos on Facebook.


    • Keep your profile secured by using friends  only option in the PRIVACY setting option of who can see your profile.


    • Do not share your location, check ins or other important details on social media.


    • Do not share your passwords with any of your friends in any circumstances; for they may misuse it.


    • Become vigilant while chatting with a person online. Try to understand the chatting pattern of the person. Many people make fake profiles and bully people.


    • In case you are being troubled or bullied by someone then don’t be the victim or hide it. Share it with someone whom you trust (parents, teachers, counselors) so that necessary actions can be taken soon.”


    Roma did not realize that Facebook can be an easy platform for cyber bullying to such an extent. She herself had shared a few photos of her on Facebook and never thought that they could be misused. She thanked Shalini for briefing her about it. The first thing she did after reaching home was changed her ‘privacy setting’ on Facebook profile and ‘unfriended’ the randomly added people.

    And now she realized that Facebook is one such book which has to be read with caution….. !   

    Image source

  • 28 Feb
    Yakata Sharma

    De-stressing the exam stress!

    exam stress 

     “I don’t want to disappoint my Parents. They are expecting 90% plus from me in 12th boards since I scored 10 CGPA in 10th. Even my classmates call me ‘Pseudo-topper’. I feel helpless at times. I don’t know what to do. I won’t be able to cope up with exam stress.”

    Recently, a student approached me with the issue of Exam Stress. The question of the hour is---Is it the pressure of cut-throat competition in academics or parents’ higher expectations from their kids to excel in studies a leading cause of exam stress among students??

    The reason can be either of the two or both; however the fact is no student is left unperturbed with Exam stress. What exactly is exam stress?? Let’s understand what Stress is, first.

    The feeling of being “under pressure”, tension, anxiety, nervousness … are the words generally used by individuals to express their state of stress. As per Psychology, Stress is an adaptive bodily response of an individual to certain events (Exams), objects or incidences which affect his/her mental equilibrium.

    Stress is of two types: negative stress is called Distress and positive stress is called Eustress, which feels like “butterflies in stomach” one gets while on a roller-coaster ride. Eustress enhances performance of an individual, motivates him/her to do better than the previous time and boosts his/her morale for further challenges of life.

    Why exam stress is a red flag for students??... The students who suffer from exam stress do face various physical, behavioral and mental demands which may include the following:

    • Lack of attention and concentration, thereby affecting the memory.
    • Low self-confidence and negative self-image.
    • Loss of appetite or binge eating.
    • Low or zero communication.
    • Insomnia or drowsiness.
    • Mood swings.
    • Less or negligible social interaction.
    • Upset stomach or diarrhea.
    • Suicidal ideation---- If not treated timely may lead to clinical Depression.

    Under what circumstances does exam stress arise??...  The common exam stressors include:

    • Self-created pressure to score high (Sometimes more than his/her aptitude).
    • Higher expectations of Parents.
    • Spirit of competitiveness.
    • Comparison with others (Siblings, cousins, classmates etc.).
    • Fear of being left out and fear of rejection.
    • Fear of being ridiculed by parents, siblings, friends, teachers, etc.


    I don’t feel stressed during exams. In fact I don’t study all the time. I make sure to take out sometime to watch TV and even go out to play for an hour during exams.” -- Another student from same class told me the other day.  

    Not all students experience exam stress. Why is it so? Exam Stress arises when:

    • There is no structured plan for study.
    • There is no structured plan for revision.
    • No proper schedule for sleep and rest.
    • No healthy and nutritious food habits.
    • Pre-occupied with other negative emotions.

    For a few individuals exam stress, if not worked upon, may prove disastrous.


    Here are a few tips to curb exam stress:

    • Plan your study: A proper planning can help you win over exam stress with an ease.
    • Keep in mind the date of examination.
    • Prepare a schedule and stick to it.
    • Divide the course.
    • Set short-term target(s).
    • Include recreational and leisure activities too in the scheduled study plan.
    • Schedule the subjects depending on your productive hours i.e. Morning, afternoon, evening, night or late night.
    • As rightly said, “Discipline is the key to success.
    • Act on the study plan.
    • Keep regular follow-ups with the plan.
    • Review the progress.

    It will be a mere waste of time if one doesn’t stick to the study plan or rather remains engrossed in unimportant tasks while studying. 

    • Focus and attention: One of the major issues with students is that they are not able to retain attention and concentrate for extended period of time while studying for longer duration. For them:
    • Sit at the same place at the same time to study, so that your mind is tuned to the same environment.
    • After every 30-35 minutes of session take 5-10 minute break just to relax your brain.
    • While studying put off all the distractions like, mobile phones, TV, Internet, Video games, PSPs, tablets, etc.
    • Tell your family members about your study time so that they don’t disturb/distract once you have sat to study.
    • Postpone any calls from your friends, relatives, neighbors etc.
    • While revising the lessons engage in Fast Reading.
    • Make use of visual maps and Mnemonics to remember formulas, theorems, periodic table etc.

           “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”----- leisure and recreational activities play a crucial role in de-stressing exam stress. Hence it is necessary to UNWIND YOURSELF during exams.

    • Practice deep breathing exercises.
    • Listen to soothing music.
    • Stretching and walking.
    • Engage yourself in Positive Self-talk and affirmative discussions (I CAN-I WILL) with others.
    • Talk as much as you can with your parents, trusted ones or professionals about this state of yours.
    • Visualize your success.
    • Stay away from rebuttal people.
    • Take the right amount of sleep and timely scheduled rest between the study time.
    • Eat healthy and balanced diet.

     Keep all the above mentioned points in mind and tell yourself to keep calm it’s just an exam!

    Image source

  • 16 Feb
    Yakata Sharma

    Don’t Suffer Silently, Voice it out!



     “It was a quiet afternoon and I was studying history. History was a sleeping pill to others, but to me it was as fascinating as a mystery. To my surprise, one of my uncles returned home early. He was always interested in my whereabouts, friends, clothes and studies. I admired him as he guided me more than my father.” 

    “Like a good host, I made uncle comfortable at home. While discussing a few things, he asked me to come and sit close to him. I didn’t find it odd and sat near him. While continuing the conversation, all of a sudden he started fondling my private parts. I was taken aback by such an act. It made me uncomfortable and numb. I couldn’t react timely. Fortunately my mother entered the hall. I took advantage of her entry and ran to my room as fast as I could.”

    “It took me some time to register what just happened to me back in the hall. It was an episode which turned my fun-filled life topsy turvy. I asked myself with disgust, ‘why me?’ ” 

    “I couldn’t share the episode with my mother since I felt guilty and hesitant about it. It was a secret I would take to my grave.”

    “And it didn’t stop! Another day he groped me from behind and with a wicked smile asked me how it felt? When I didn’t answer,  he threatened me. I was both terrified and furious at the same time. I wanted to slap him tightly, but couldn’t even move away from him.” 

    “My non-assertiveness reinforced him to continue such activities. Gradually, I avoided the social settings where my uncle's presence was expected. I felt disgusted and tormented whenever I saw him. To my Parents I was merely disrespectful by not being part of the social evening(s).  They asked me the reason for such strange behavior. I was skeptical about their reaction to such a revelation, hence I preferred not to disclose it to them. I felt helpless and suffered silently for years.”

    “For quite a long time, all those episodes were green in my mind like a kaleidoscopic movie. I wanted to talk about this with my mother but couldn’t. Later in life I couldn’t sustain relationships with the opposite gender for long. I felt uncomfortable even when my male friends touched me in a friendly gesture. I couldn’t figure out the reason for my failed relationships. I had low self-esteem and was annoyed with myself.”

    “One day my patience ran out. I couldn’t cope with the emotional turmoil and consulted a psychologist. I was quite apprehensive initially but subsequently I told her everything that happened with me.  Regular sessions with the therapist boosted up my morale. I was no longer afraid of my uncle and later told my mother about the sexual abuse. She got furious and extremely apologetic for not being aware of my plight until now.”

    “It’s been 7 years now. In retrospect, I realize that the reason for my prolonged suffering was lack of assertiveness, the fear of “being judged” by my own parents, hesitation and the guilt attached to its disclosure. Had I been assertive I wouldn’t have suffered for so long.” -----announced Shalini.


    Presently, Shalini works for a leading NGO and no longer feels afraid to opine her views or thoughts freely in different social situations. Assertiveness gave her a positive self-image and confidence to live life to its fullest. She no more suffers silently!     

    Assertiveness is a response that seeks to maintain an appropriate balance between passivity and aggression. Being assertive means being able to stand up for own or another person’s rights in a calm and positive way, neither being ‘aggressive’ nor passively accepting ‘wrong.’ It doesn’t come to everyone naturally. It is a social skill which can be learnt at any time in life.

    Assertiveness tends to be self-rewarding i.e. it feels good to have others begin to respond more attentively and to find situations going one’s way more often. It gives an individual confidence and strength to express opinions and feelings openly. It is standing up and not let anyone take advantage of oneself.

    Assertiveness training is a form of behavioral therapy designed to help people stand up for themselves—to empower themselves. The training programme includes:

    • Identification of the situation which demands assertiveness.
    • Consideration of best alternative responses.
    • Rehearsal of the selected response.
    • Shaping of the behavior.

    Assertiveness is all about expression, self-enhancement and achievement of life goals. It’s better to “stand up for yourself” than “being a scapegoat” in life.

    Image source

  • 06 Feb
    Yakata Sharma

    Parenting: A stepping stone towards a child’s psychological well-being

    helicopter parent



    By Yakata Sharma


    Shalini yelped, “I am 25 and am tired of being ‘operated’ by my parents.” 

    Shalini, as a kid never had the opportunity to be the ‘happy and carefree’ kid. In kindergarten when she once participated in a Poem recital competition, she got a ‘silver medal’ which to her Parents was not a victory but the LOSS OF A GOLD MEDAL. She was an average scorer, but really worked hard to be the class topper because her Parents WANTED her to be the best in class. Since kindergarten, she had experienced what is now termed as HELICOPTER PARENTING.

    She never had a say in anything, whether it was the choice of clothes or the food she ate, friends- she made, education, career stream that suited her aptitude or interests, or relationships-whom or when she wanted to marry. With such a claustrophobic family environment, Shalini missed out on a healthy and positive development like the kids of her age. As soon as she became a teenager, conditions worsened.

    Whenever she asked her mother to go out with her friends, in reply she got a string of questions to answer which ultimately spoiled her mood and she ended up staying at home. The invites to parties started diminishing until there were none. She was mocked at by her friends. By now it became a common joke that she would have to take permission of her Parents even to use the washrooms. All such comments made her furious but she never reacted to any of them. She, somehow, knew that whatever is being said about her is not wrong but she found herself helpless to even raise her voice against it. There was nobody at home with whom she could discuss all the emotional distress she was going through. As a result, Shalini, preferred to stay aloof from her family and friends.

    With the passage of time the anger and annoyance Shalini felt for her parents grew to another level. Before she could decide which stream to opt for, what she wanted to become in future, she was enrolled in a medical college to pursue medicine. She, undoubtedly, had an aptitude for medical studies but she wanted something else from life. She wanted to be a photographer. However, she never had the courage to tell her Parents about her dream and desires frankly.   Within years, she became a non-assertive soul who was just surviving rather than living.

    During college days, she came across one such ‘photography club’ being introduced in the campus. She was happy to know about the functioning of the club, regular meetings, and intra-club activities.  She did not register herself at once in the club, rather one day initiated a conversation with her Parents regarding the same, with intense courage. Her Parents disapproved of her idea and asked her to focus on real subject-matter. Another setback from parents was not new to her.

    Within 6 months of her job, she was sacked. She couldn’t stick to a job for more than 6-7 months. She tried her best to sustain the job but to no avail. Her parents, whom she looked upon for a shoulder to cry on during this ‘low-phase’ of life, did nothing but criticized her to the core. Shalini started giving up on her patience. She consistently got bouts of hopelessness and sadness and one night decided to end all her troubles. She ran away from her Parents to find solution to all her anxiety, anger, frustration, non-assertiveness and most importantly, her failures in life.

    For the first time she expressed her feelings in a letter she left for her Parents----------

    “I HATE you mom and dad from the core of my Heart”………..


             PARENTING, just like any other art form is not everyone’s cup of tea. People, generally, consider that giving birth to a child is all about Parenting. It takes lot of courage, patience and sacrifice to provide healthy and positive Parenting.

    An individual should not become a Parent just:

    • To have someone to care for you when you are old.
    • To give your parents grandchildren.
    • To carry on the family name.
    • To save a shaky marriage (or to get a guy to the altar).
    • Because everybody else is doing it.
    • To be “fulfilled” as a woman or “prove” you are a man.
    • To have someone to “love” ---or possess.
    • “We are trying for a girl (boy) this time.”
    • “Johnnie wants a baby brother (sister).”

    Helicopter Parenting will raise ‘angry kids’ who eventually lose interest in life and respect for their parents. As a result, kids of such demanding and pushy parents develop into suicidal adults, whereas, Positive Parenting allows the Parents to treat every day as an opportunity to help their children see the positive in every experience and truly provide a meaningful existence. It’s the positive Parenting which leads to better social, cognitive and emotional development of a child.

    If only had Shalini been given Positive Parenting, she would have fought bravely with her negative life events….IF ONLY! 

    Image source

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