Another soul departs; dreams shattered, people called it fate and destiny, and accepted the rendezvous with death. None of us can imagine those last moments what Aysha had gone through and what was going on in her head before she jumped in the Sabarmati River, and death took her in its fold. Tried to smile in those last moments of her life and tried to show how bravely she fought this unjust world. She was carrying a huge burden on her shoulders and took such an extreme step after so many hardships. One cannot imagine even how many efforts she had already exhausted, and how much effort she made to reach up to that point where she accepted destiny and surrendered to death. Most of us might have watched her last video and felt pain and agony and then moved back to our lives as if nothing had happened. However, the story of Aysha is the tip of the iceberg and many of us are living such moments every day and are bearing such pain in silence and never choose to speak and hesitate to ask for help.
This is the tyranny of our society where people would love to talk about nonsense issues – neighbors, politics, celebrities, gossips, etc. but are reluctant to talk about their life problems. No doubt, we are living in the twenty-first century but we carry burdens of social stigmas and still we call ourselves a modern society. We are so scary and fearful, acting as educated illiterate, that we even do not want to understand the concept of mental health. Most of the time we ignore or either avoid facing the realities and we choose to remain silent and bear mental health issues in silence. Our society is so stigmatized about mental health that we take it as so rude if someone asks us that you need to see a psychiatrist or a counsellor. Recently, during a conversation with my friend, I realized that he is struggling with depression, as the symptoms were visible from his talking. I suggested that because it was hard to make counseling on a phone call so I recommended him to see a psychiatrist or a counselor as he strongly needed help. Alas! These words turned his world upside down and I faced the blame. In fact, later what was told by his mother and other relatives is whether I thought he was mad (Pagal) and he needed a doctor (Pagalan hund doctor) who sees mad people. I did my best to explain to them his depression symptoms but it was not surprising that none of them understood and they kept treating his depression symptoms with home remedies.
We are living in a society where we choose to show off our wealth, status, pride, and show off our healthy side but we are reluctant to accept and talk about our mental health status. We as a society have evolved with so much stress in everyday lives where we feel that everything is going to be alright and it just needs time. We put out stress and issues on time and believe that time heals everything. Unfortunately, it is not the case with our mental health! Time never heals our mental scars. We struggle and carry those mental burdens every day with us and unfortunately, they harm us deep inside and they do harm us physically too. In recent times, we heard many cases where young people died because of heart attacks. Yet no study had been done which can prove that mental health was the reason behind those sudden and tragic deaths. Maybe that’s why people do not take them seriously, however, mental health issues are called silent killers, which show their final impact via physiological damages they do to our body.
Living in Kashmir is not easy and day-to-day chores are full of stress, so our society and each of us need to understand and give importance to our mental health. We are not only responsible for our mental health but we are responsible for our dear and loved ones too. Although we spend hours with the family under the same roof, we have no idea about what is going on in each other’s lives, as we are completely absorbed by either television or our smartphones. We poke in people’s lives who are living thousands of miles away from us and we share no relation with them nor we have any kind of relational transactions with them. We never care to ask each other how are you and how was your day, and even though some might ask,mwe pass on by simply saying I am fine or it was ok. Our society is so much engrossed with traditions where a man hesitates to express his love towards his mother, sister, or to his wife. We forget we are human and we need love, care and attention the same way as we need air, water, and food. It’s one of the primary needs but with the cultural stigmas, we suppress it. In such a culturally stigmatized world we have adjusted ourselves just to suffer silently unless and until mental illnesses take over and we finally accept it as fate and destiny.
Mental health issues is an umbrella term that can be widely used for several issues and usually, the symptoms related to mental health issues are as follows:-
1. Eating or sleeping too much or too little
2. Having low or no energy
4. Feeling helpless or hopeless
5. Excessive Smoking, drinking, or using drugs more than usual
6. Feeling unusually confused, forgetful, on edge, angry, upset, worried, or scared
7. Yelling or fighting with family and friends on little issues
8. Experiencing severe mood swings that cause problems in relationships
9. Having persistent thoughts and memories you can’t get out of your head
10. Pulling away from people and usual activities.
11. Inability to perform daily tasks like taking care of your kids or getting to work or school.
12. Sudden mood swings or feeling low without any reasons.
If a person is experiencing several of these at a time, and the symptoms are causing serious problems in the ability to study, work or relate to others, he/she should ask for help from professionals. We must step forward and take initiatives that promote health and blooming mental health. We need to understand its signs, symptoms, magnitude and learn how to deal with it, and spread awareness about it. Here are some tips to live a healthy mental life.
Spend quality life with family: Pose a question to yourself and ask how much quality time you are spending with your family members. The quality time does not include when we are, holding mobile in one hand, surfing social networking websites, and simultaneously sitting with family. It does not include the time when we are sitting with family and watching television. Quality times here mean when we interact with each other and talk about each other day-to-day work and how things are going in our lives. A father or mother asking their son or daughter how their studies are going is not the end of our responsibilities towards each other. We need to break the traditional gaps between generations and understand each other’s mental needs such as the feeling of care, attention, and support without reaching the dead end.
Proper use of Social Media: The boom of social media took place in the last two decades and it had a huge impact on human lives. No doubt, it changed the perception and the scenario of human lives but thousands of studies in psychology are trying to understand its adverse effects on our lives. I would like to give a simple example here; one of my friends having 554 friends on Facebook and Instagram, having more than 400 followers, but in real life he shared that he always feels lonely. What we need to do is to come out of this virtual world and start living life in the real world. We spend hours everyday glued to our mobiles and we are losing the real people in our real world. One of the burning issues is Phubbing (Phubbing refers to the intentional or unintentional action of ignoring others during social interactions or events by using smart phones, whether it is checking Facebook, using WhatsApp or other chatting applications or surfing the internet) and it’s destroying our social structures.
Another important part of proper use of social media, which I would like to discuss, is our sharing behaviors. We love to click pictures of our places, food, the products we buy but we do not have even a vague idea that how it is influencing us. When people share these pictures or stories and people who see those pictures feel that how happy and enjoyable life people are living and these people start comparing their lives with the life in those pictures and that is the beginning of negative energy, which spreads like a wildfire. Our human brain, when already under stress, starts comparing our lives with others and when we are exposed to such content people start to feel dissatisfied with their everyday lives and feel demotivated often.
Accept if you are having mental health issues: Having a mental health issue is normal and the truth is we all at some point of life have mental health issues. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness and when the above signs and symptoms are visible then we must immediately seek help. Unfortunately, we are hesitant to ask for help and even if someone wants to ask for help, he or she has no idea where to ask or whom to ask. Especially in Kashmir, the number of counselors is almost zero and we have to overcome social stigmas too. Even if one does not find a professional counselor around but still one can share his issues with family members and seek their support before it gets too late. The recent lockdown has changed the scenario of the world including counseling, and thousands of websites offer free online counseling. So one needs to come out of the mentality that time heals everything and seek help.
Make your social environment rich: Negativity is communicable and spreads much faster than wildfire. Surround yourself with people who are motivating, positive, optimistic, and share a positive attitude towards life. Even this is true for your virtual life too and once you change your social structure you will see how your own life will change.
Feed your brain healthy stuff: Eating healthy and reading healthy is the best feast for your healthy life. Media and internet boom surround us where every second they try to persuade us for the products. Choose wisely and do not follow anything blindly whether it is your food choice, readings, a friend request or page on social media, or what you wear. Every single thing in your life matters and it must be decided wisely by you.
Dr. Thseen Nazir is Asst. Prof. Dept. of Counseling and Guidance, Ibn Haldun University
Başakşehir, Istanbul, Turkey