Mental Health Is ‘My Thing’

With everything that is going on around the world, we are exposed to crises on a daily basis each time we scroll through our feeds. So naturally, one day gender equity is our thing, one day it is equal wages, another morning we are moved by farmers’ plight, and then our new thing is mental health awareness. It keeps changing – our cause, our rationale, our tipping point. Because that is what everything has come down to. A thing. So what are we really doing about these things? Just to save your time, this does not concern people who are fence sitters on issues that affect people on a day-to-day basis – online and offline.

I know it is overwhelming to read, watch, and listen to so much in one shot. Nobody really can. But whatever we do, can we do that with a little empathy? This has been something I have been wanting to talk about ever since the lockdown began, when we saw the migrant exodus in India. We cannot put up a fight against each battle, but there seemed to be an exceeding amount of ignorance and carelessness on issues that grew to hurt me.

It took an Indian actor’s death for the conversation around mental health to surface in our society. Even though there are finer details that are being combed through, my question is WHY. Why does it take a celebrity’s passing to throw light on a taboo that has been part of our society since the beginning of time?

Why does everything have to be so fleeting? Today’s topic is mental health awareness. Tomorrow’s will be something else and we will have opinions on that too. We all have our own battles to fight, yes. But in that case, can we please not join each and every bandwagon mindlessly? Because by doing that, we are only diluting the enormity of the problem people actually face.

Reading all the articles and messages around his demise was very triggering for me because of the artificial concerns expressed on how our society does not treat mental health as a legitimate issue. This has been an ongoing battle for many people like me who was ‘mature for my age’ or an ‘intense personality’ – we are this way because we feel and comprehend things in a different way. We felt a lot and we genuinely did not know better ways to process. And let me also tell you, that this is not a conscious choice. When we read long articles and stories about how depression is ignored, we know it is. There is countless research on how there is a prejudice in the Indian society against mental health. So instead of talking about it as something that just ‘happens to you’, please take some time out to understand the meaning of words like depression, trauma, and anxiety. Because these things are not incidental.

Casually tossing terms like OCD and anxiety and romanticizing about them does not make anyone a part of some imaginary community. Our mental health is not a quip for us going through it and it should not be for onlookers either. While I always give room for people to educate themselves and alter their opinions on passing issues, this is not a passing issue. So please, the next time a big wave hits the shore, do not blatantly join a campaign and narrate a story about how you ‘got anxiety’ when it was really just a reality check. I am sorry, but this is not cute anymore. If we are able to read this, we also have the capability to open our browsers to find answers or reach out to someone to help. And if incase we are not in the headspace to, then that is okay too. But let’s not dip our toes in the water and opt out when it gets uncomfortable.

This is not a random outburst that will fade away with the next headline. My entire thesis-writing journey revolved around equipping adolescents with ways to deal with mental health adversities. While it began with personal motivations, it was and has continued to be an eye-opener for me purely because it calls attention to the giant treatment gap that exists in our country. It is not a lost cause; there are several initiatives that are driving change through their content. But it will only take effect if people respect each battle even if it is not their own. We are not obligated to post an update about how moved we are only because we want to sound woke. Because trust me, some of us can see right through it.

All it takes is a little bit of empathy. We don’t have to suffer from something to empathise. If you need ideas on how to make a difference, here are a few – talk to someone, look up groups online and offline, educate yourself, spread awareness, ask questions. If you want to help, please make it count. Even if we reach out to one person to check on them, it means a great deal.

This pandemic has amplified our emotions in various ways, and it would be a shame if we came out of it as oblivious as we entered it.