By: Shefali Sinha
According to research done in 2016, one in four people in the world will be affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives and around 450 million people currently suffer from these conditions, placing mental disorders amongst the leading causes of ill health and disability worldwide.
Where India is concerned (which currently has a population over 1 billion), a study conducted by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 2015 shows that one in 5 Indians may suffer from depression in their lifetime, equivalent to 200 million people. Due to the cultural stigma associated with mental illness, a lack of awareness or information and limited and expensive professional help, only 10%-12% of these sufferers seek help.
800,000 people commit suicide worldwide every year. Of these, 135,000 (17%) are residents of India. Between 1987 and 2007 the suicide rate increased from 7.9 to 10.3 per 100,000 with higher suicide rates in the southern and eastern states of India. India is considered a colorful, vibrant nation, homeland to so many religions, and the hearth of yoga and spirituality. How did we end up amongst the least happy nations in the world?
I could never explain to my parents or teachers exactly what I was going through.
Let’s get to the heart of this issue through my perspective. I have been suffering from depression and anxiety since the age of 7. I could never explain to my parents or teachers exactly what I was going through. I often compared myself with others, especially amongst my peer group and eventually realised I never really felt happiness. I started self harming during my teen years. My parents did not believe it was depression, but rather an adolescent hormonal flare. I always felt different, I felt ashamed of how I was mocked for being “too sensitive”, “weak” a “cry baby”. Even when I had everything I could ask for, understanding parents, lovely sister, caring friends, I still felt a hole inside, a feeling of loneliness that never left me. I used to cry at the most minor inconvenience. As the years went by, it got worse. I could never be in a stable relationship, I was indecisive, it was impossible for me to hold a conversation with anyone, all i could think of as a solution was self harm. I started seeking professional help at the age of 22. It took me 13 long years of fighting, crying , and blaming myself just to figure out that my “abnormal” behavior was normal. Mental illness is like any other disease. Its as normal as having a kidney stone. We never feel ashamed of going to a doctor to seek medical help for a kidney stone, so why depression?
Mental illness is like any other disease. It is as normal as having a kidney stone
Like any disease, depression or any other mental illness can get severe if not treated on time. Instead of being ashamed about it, I started talking about it more openly and I came to see that I am not the only one going through it, there are million of people out there still battling these voices in their head who are still ashamed to seek help, to talk about it. Let’s not be afraid anymore, let;s not be ashamed of it. As a society, it is our duty to take care of each other, to make sure our family members, our friends are healthy not only physically, but mentally too. Let’s get rid of this taboo for a happier surrounding, for a happier nation.