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…..!