I met Sumona, an ambitious girl from a small village in Arunachal Pradesh, yesterday. It had been quite some time since we’d last met. But this time, there was a difference. A difference which appalled me into believing why mental well being is crucial and a taboo at the same time. A taboo about which not much people talk about.
I met her earlier this year at a book store, where she was struggling amidst a heap of philosophy books. A sparkling smile and bright eyes full of dreams. A spirited conversation with her led me to know that she had shifted into the city with the prospect of “making it big!” But this time, the eyes weren’t as full of life and the smile had long wilted. The charm of the city had faded into the dark silhouettes of the perpetual struggle to make ends meet, to adjust to the ever increasing social, economic and work pressures. She couldn’t sleep at night, had irregular eating habits and had severed social ties. She sounded lost, hopeless and confused this time. A numbness had overpowered her spirit. That’s when I realized what most of the youth of India is undergoing in this ever developing and ambitious 21st century world. The responsibility and dream of “making it big”.
Our nation, India inhabits about 58 million people who are affected by depression, anxiety and personality disorders as per World Health Organisation (WHO) reports. A startling estimate of which the youth comprise the highest percentage.
Social media has revolutionized the 21st century, it has become the part and parcel of our lives, an inevitable and essential commodity our lives avariciously feed on. But it has its own loopholes too. The youth spends maximum time on social media, which has in consequence severed it from reality, to which they find it quite hard to adjust. Our youth is living a messed up virtual and social life which takes a magnanimous toll on their mental health. Stress of performing and getting ahead in the race of life is another reason. Pressures emanating from education, work, economic and societal spheres of life along with daily hassles also add to the level of stress, to which, half of the youth succumb and fall a prey to substance abuse and delinquent behavior. Another pattern that has come to the fore in the recent years is the negligence of physical health. Lack of physical activity and awareness has led the youth into the vicious trap of serious incommunicable diseases such as hypertension and several cardiac diseases. Mental health and Physical health go hand in hand if one suffers, the other one unmistakably suffers too.
Poverty, dearth of opportunities, overcrowding, lack of facilities are among other causes that inevitably deteriorate mental health. Development is not only about the glitter, which usually blinds us towards its nasty side. While a section of society prospers on the riches, the other section barely survives on development's deplorable ruins. The poor are victims of oppression and malevolent forces of deprivation in all arenas of life. They have to battle each day to make ends meet. And this not only encompasses the poor section, but the inhabitants of ever growing metropolitan cities, live in a perpetual fear of uncertainty of livelihood, lack of job security, unemployment and inflation are a few of the many factors which unconsciously affect their lives.
The solution lies in diverting towards a healthy lifestyle. Physical exercise boosts our metabolism and deflects us from pessimism. Regular exercise of roughly about 30 minutes a day works wonders for mental well being. Our Prime Minister has made many concrete endeavors in the propagation of Yoga. Indeed, yoga is one of the best course of action to ward off stress. Other alternatives include aerobics, any dance form, a quite walk in the lap of nature, brisk jogging among others. A healthy diet is a pre-requisite too. Family and friends are the jewels in our life which shine more as more quality time is devoted to them. Digital Detox is the need of the hour. The youth needs to realize, spending lesser time virtually and more time with close friends and family actually benefits mental health as the mind releases Oxycontin which boosts our sense of well-being and confidence. Counselling goes a long way in ameliorating the situation. Seeking help is considered a sign of weakness in many cultures across the world. And so getting help for mental issues is a taboo about which, few people talk. Lack of awareness and fear of becoming the receiving end of mockery from society bars people from seeking help. Moreover, a great deal of stigma is attached to people with mental disabilities. They are often left in isolation enveloped in neglect, darkness and apathy. Thus, worsening their situation.
But, the society needs to realize that a mentally healthy population is more efficient and resourceful to the nation. Any social setting brings about a host of problems which directly or indirectly target our mental health. So, workplaces and schools must have counselors to help employees and students to cope with their problems and find healthy solutions to them.
There are many people like Sumona, struggling through the sturdy shackles of depression, anxiety and hopelessness. Stifling out of life hopelessly, in a murky silent numbness .Along with changes in their lifestyle, all they need is empathy , acceptance and unconditional support from the society so that they heal in serenity and defeat the demons perturbing them inside their head.