"One in four people, have a mental health problem. Many more people have a problem with that." - Stephan Fry.
Can you ever imagine A War being waged inside your head? Can you imagine fighting with your own thoughts never knowing which to choose, which one is right and which one is wrong? Well, nothing is more exhausting than fighting a War inside your head every single day. The numerous thoughts like soldiers and the mind, their battlefield. I would like to quote Michelle Obama, at the launch of the Campaign ‘To Change the Direction of Mental Health’, she said, “At the root of this dilemma is the way we view mental health in this country. Whether an illness affects your heart, your leg or your brain, it’s still an illness and there should be no distinction. Because we know that mental health is just as important to our overall well-being as our physical health.”
The Stigma (A mark of disgrace associated with a particular person) attached to mental illness is pitiful. So very pitiful that even one, just hearing the terms ‘mental illness’, ‘mentally ill’ or ‘mental/psychological health’, think of it to be that the person is mad, insane, crazy or unstable. Often, Mental Illness and Mental Retardation is mistaken to be the same thing. But No, They are two different concepts with a marked difference seen between them. Mental Illness can be understood as a mental health condition that disrupts the behavior, thoughts and emotions of an individual. Mental Retardation is a developmental disability that first appears in children under the age of 18. It refers to the child having an intellectual functioning level (IQ), that is well below average and have significant limitations in daily living skills.
Mentioned below are five important warning signs of A Mental Illness -
• Long periods of sadness or irritably.
• Heightened Mood Swings – low and high.
• Excessive worry or anxiety.
• Withdrawing from social contact.
• Change in eating habits and sleep schedules.
Mental Illness can be broadly classified into two categories – Psychotics and Neurotics. Psychotics are people with severe mental disorders, in which their thoughts and emotions are so impaired that contact is completely lost with reality. It includes the disorders such as Schizophrenia, Delusional Disorder etc. Neurotics are people with a relatively mild mental illness, that is not caused by organic disease, involving symptoms of stress (depression, anxiety, obsessive behavior, etc.), but they do not experience a radical loss of touch with reality. It includes the disorders such as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Phobias, Anxiety Based Disorders, Depression, Eating Disorders like Anorexia, Bulimia etc. The main issue with having a mental illness is its diagnosis. Unlike other chronic and physical illnesses, mental illnesses cannot be diagnosed using X-Rays, Scans, Blood Tests or any other kind of devices, hence making the diagnosis and treatment more difficult. According to Thomas R. Insel, Director of the National Institute of Mental Health, “Mental Illnesses are no different from heart disease, diabetes or any other chronic illness. The only difference here is that the organ of interest is the brain instead of the heart or pancreas. But the same basic principles apply."
Mental Health Awareness Week takes place every year and this year it is from the 18th to the 24th of May 2020. It is organized by The Mental Health Foundation. Each year, the Mental Health Awareness Week upholds a particular theme and this year’s theme is ‘Kindness’. The reason this awareness week is important, is because it attempts to reduce the stigma attached to mental health and mental illnesses and encourage those people suffering from a mental illness, to be able to talk more about it and get the necessary help they need through early intervention. Be it professional support or medical assistance that could lead them towards the road of having a speedy recovery.
An excerpt from a mental health related website states the reason for having chosen this theme, it says, “We have chosen kindness because of its singular ability to unlock our shared humanity. Kindness strengthens relationships, develops community and deepens solidarity. It is a cornerstone of our individual and collective mental health. Wisdom from every culture across history recognizes that kindness is something that all human beings need to experience and practice to be fully alive”.
The Annual Statistics (2019), show that one in four people develop a mental illness. In India, as per The Economic Times statistics of 2019, around 7.5% of Indians are affected by a mental illness. The people with mental illnesses are challenged doubly. On one hand, they struggle with the symptoms, disabilities and trauma that result from the illness and on the other hand, they are challenged by the stereotypes and prejudice that result from the misconceptions people have about mental illness and most importantly the lack of support of being able to have an open-dialogue about their mental illness or not having the adequate support to address their mental health issue/s.In turn, it drains out their positivity, lowers their self-esteem and ultimately, their quality of life. They also tend not to seek medical help because of the stigmatization which will ambush them from the society.
A Mental Illness can affect anyone at any time irrespective of age, caste, creed, gender or even your social or financial status. The terms are very often used loosely, like someone in a sad mood after her/his exam saying “I’m Depressed”, or someone neat and orderly by nature called one with OCD. Hence, it is important that we must stop labelling, belittling and teasing people with a mental illness, but instead support them in their fight for betterment. We should spread awareness and stop stigmatizing and assist them by understanding and empathizing with them, because what trauma they experience inside their minds will never be known to anyone else. How they internalize it and how insecure they feel about it, will also never be known to anyone else and therefore, we have no right to judge them or their doings. It is time we are sensitive towards them, break mental health related taboos and be one among those who support their cause. Let us never tell a person with a mental illness, to just get over it, but help the person in getting through it.