Why is Mental Health still a taboo?

In this beautifully-bollywood-crazed country called India, where the cinema is progressing towards more sensitive issues, besides falling in love and happily ever afters, mental health is still a suppressed issue. We’ve had great movies like My name is Khan, Bhool Bhulaiya, Barfi!, Taare Zameen Par and the most recent Dear Zindagi yet, we still shy away from talking about our mental issues.

There’s a beautiful dialogue in Dear Zindagi (roughly translated) – “ I see a psychologist for me to accept myself”. Please pardon the quote, however, it is quite important to understand why this dialogue makes so much sense. As we grow, we keep adapting to the environment. It takes time to get accustomed to a new city, new family, new beginnings and so on. At every stage, when we begin a fresh chapter of our life, we tend to carry the baggage from the past into the future. Time progresses and this baggage gets heavier till you can’t seem to bear it anymore. Well, this is just the tip of the iceberg.

One of the major disappointments is the stigma associated with mental health. Just because you face some difficulty in life, where you might need some external help in the form of a counsellor, doesn’t imply that you are insane or mentally unstable. Since childhood, we’ve taken words like ‘mental’, ‘paagal’ and ‘dumb’ very lightly. We don’t generally pause to introspect how deep scars these words can leave. This stems the taboo of mental health.

We pester our kids to do exceptionally well in academics, we force ourselves to prove to others that we lead a lavish lifestyle. In essence, all we’re doing to adding unnecessary burden to our existing baggage. And what happens when the bag is full? You’re labelled as a mental person. How is that fair?

We immediately seek a physician’s help when we’re down with something as normal as a common cold. So why is it that we refrain from even ‘discussing’ our mental health? Inspite of innumerable attempts by the media and the mental experts, the society follows the same policy of pushing people with mental issues away from them. Be it our own family, friends, loved ones… Instead of being patient and taking care of them with love and affection, we shut them away in a room and hope that they’ll magically recover! The paucity of sense in that logic is astonishing.

We’re blessed that we enjoy the perks of our physical and mental health. But not everyone is that lucky. We hear news about how the mentally ill are mistreated and abused. WHY? Are they not humans? Is it their fault that they didn’t have the lucky wand grazed over them like we have? Even the jail is an unsafe place for them. The guards physically abuse them, treat them with electronic stun guns, strap them/chain them to their beds for hours. Where are the BASIC human rights?

We agree that it is difficult; it is difficult for the society to suddenly change their views on mental health. But is it really that difficult to believe that these people are humans first? We beg to differ. There’s a close association between physical health and mental health, which we often neglect. Recollect all those times when you suffered from a severe headache when you were stressed. This is just a miniscule example of how closely mental health and physical health are interlinked. Now, picture how gruelling life can be for those who suffer from acute mental illnesses.

We NEED to talk about mental health, mental disorders and emotional well-being. Mental health can very well be a casual dinner table conversation just like viral fever or common cold is. Mental happiness should be just as cardinal as physical fitness. And that’s the only way that we can demolish the taboo associated with it.

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