Redefining Outreach: Understanding Mental Health
Mental health refers to one’s emotional and psychological wellbeing. Worldwide, it is believed that approximately 725 million or 10% of the global population struggle with mental illness, from which 197 million are in India. To this end, REST ran a webinar on mental health, focusing on adolescents and Covid-19 related issues, in collaboration with Obhimot, an organisation based in Assam (NE India).
According to the WHO, mental health comprises 16% of the burden of illness for young people globally. In particular, suicide is the third leading cause of death amongst mere 15-19 year olds. If undetected in adolescence, mental illness can lead to difficulty later in life or worse a shortened lifespan. These figures are only estimates and exclude those undiagnosed or unaware of their mental health issues.
Stigma is the predominant reason for a large number of undiscovered cases, causing people excess suffering that could be lessened or avoided altogether. The lens with which we assess mental health often disparages people who have psychological conditions. Consequent to this, a lack of resources and support exists to treat illnesses that are as common and ‘normal’ as physical ailments!
Our webinar delved into the reality of stigma and how in mental health it is akin to telling a diabetic person to not get their insulin or telling a person with hypertension to not take their life-saving medicine. Mental health is often discussed as an ‘issue of grave danger and criminality’, or with flippancy that minimizes the seriousness of certain conditions. Both cases illicit a sense of shame, influencing the population with mental illness’ willingness to obtain treatment. Upon normalising our perceptions of mental illness, we have the power and ability to save countless lives. As Marie Curie once said, “Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood.”
During the webinar, in-numerous thought-provoking questions were asked; a paramount question regarded the use of medication as the only treatment for mental illness. As mental health is highly personal and subjective, professionals will guide you to find the right treatment specific to you. This may entail individually or a combination of medication, cognitive behavioural therapy, art therapy or even something as simple as exercise. The more we comprehend mental illness, the more we discover valuable therapies. The key is to seek out services until you find the best support fit for you.
Furthermore, some questions encompassed notions of helping others who may suffer from mental illnesses. Mental health may be a precarious subject, so when assisting acquaintances or loved ones alike you must proceed carefully and let them guide your method of support. An individual is in charge of their own mental health. Trust is key; you may serve as a listener, accompaniment to a doctor’s appointment or offer empathy, depending on the circumstance. If you are unable to fathom words or express your feelings, it is important to be direct about it, rather than say the ‘wrong thing’.
Though mental health is often a sensitive subject, it is vital to note that it really shouldn't be. A key take-away from this webinar reminds us that we are not alone, many people struggle with their mental health - especially now during the Covid-19 pandemic. A poll during the webinar illustrated that 75% of participants reported feeling anxious with the pandemonium that Covid-19 is causing daily on people’s lives, growth and development.
If you or someone that you know may need help, please seek out services. Crisis hotlines exist worldwide for those experiencing suicidal thoughts, regardless of one’s demography. Be the person who breaks the cycle; if you were judged, choose understanding; if you were rejected, choose acceptance; if you were shamed, choose compassion. Remember that everything can and will be okay, even if it takes time. We can all get through these difficult times by relying on one another- albeit virtually for the time being!
Below are a couple of organisations operating in India, but if you need aid finding services in your country or region please reach out to us.
Mental health Innovation Network (MHIN) works with mental health and well-being, specifically during COVID-19. Please proceed to their website to learn more from their videos and resources.
AASRA runs a 24 hour hotline for anyone in distress. Please call +91-9820466726 to reach the hotline or proceed to their website for the hotline and other resources.
Edited by: Rhea