Imagine living in a state of constant fear that your whole life depends on every little decision you make. Even those as trivial as choosing between wearing blue or black, or whether to use a pen or a pencil. Imagine being locked in an endless battle with your own mind, when it has lost its last remaining bit of rationality.
If you cannot relate to this, you’ve been fortunate. This is less than a pico-fraction of what a person with a mental illness goes through every single day. In fact, everyone has traces of every mental condition, but in varying degrees. A few are unfortunate enough to have one or more of them, either triggered by a traumatic incident in their past, or genetically passed down through time. This is when a mental ‘condition’ goes on to become a mental (societal) ‘disorder’.
Had it been the common cold, we wouldn’t have dedicated an entire week to engage in its discussion. But mental illness is different. Sufferers aren’t just victims of the illness itself, but also of the stigma and the prejudice that arises from it. Despite the severity of the issue, media depiction of it has been severely flawed and distorted. A substantial degree of societal perception of mental illness is the result of widespread ignorance regarding the topic. Victims are often seen as unreliable, unstable, and at times, violent.
In Indian society, more often than not, clinical depression is shot down as temporary sadness, OCD is seen as a bunch of inexplicable and harmless habits, and paranoia as overthinking. So much so that it’s considered an embarrassment if one gets diagnosed with mental illness. Most parents enter a state of denial.
“It’s all in your head,” is one of the worst things you can say to a person with a mental illness. A psychologically troubled person doesn’t stay so out of choice.
It is imperative to understand two things. Firstly, that mental illness is highly normal, and can occur to anyone. Secondly, that there is treatment. The illnesses may be caused by physical or mental abuse, neglect, or perhaps the loss of a dear one – but it can be cured over time with a combination of therapy, medication, and the love and support of family and friends.
Having a mental illness is no joke. It’s a battle no one should have to fight alone. The brain doesn’t follow simple equations and formulae, so it’s not easy to treat an issue that’s ‘all in your head’. If your brain isn’t fully functional, nothing else is.
It is high time we stopped trivializing mental illness, and treat it like we would a physical illness, with caution and immediacy.
Over the course of the subsequent articles in this series, we aim to create an aware audience – one that understands the seriousness of mental illness. We’ll talk about each one of them, in depth, and discuss possible treatments.
The battle against mental illness and the stigma accompanying it is far from over, and we seek to take the first small step of many, in an effort to support those who may need help. We hope you join us as we explore and talk about the various kinds of mental illness, and in the process, understand yourself and your fellow humans just a tad more.
You can also reach out to us anonymously. Even if we aren’t able to help you directly, we’ll point you in the right direction.
PS: This is the introductory article in our Mental Health Awareness Week. Stay tuned for more!
-Written by Priyanjali Roychoudhury and Agnihotra Bhattacharya for MTTN