American gymnast Simone Biles withdrew from the Tokyo Olympic floor final earlier this year to focus on her mental health. She has not minced words in documenting her struggles with mental health in posts on her social media accounts. Mind you, she has been a reigning champion – a superstar!
Of late, mental health has been drawing the much needed attention from several quarters. Celebrities coming out to share their mental health struggles has immensely furthered the cause, which is otherwise considered to be a stigma in most parts of the world.
If you are a person who still thinks that there is a lot of unwanted fuss being made about ‘mental health’ and that there are other issues that deserve more attention, then you really need to rethink. Just as one would nurse a bruised limb in case of an injury, a wounded mind also needs to be nursed.
Be it about the physical, social, spiritual or psychological issues, we humans focus more on the seen than on the unseen. And this shapes our behaviour most of the times. However, what is unseen is more crucial than what is seen!
Have you ever attended a Puppet Show? Not only children, but adults too are attracted towards the colourful talking, singing, jumping puppets. But, what attention would puppets draw without puppeteers or marionettists doing their jobs well, behind the screen? The voices of the puppets and their movements are all regulated by the puppeteers. Puppets look attractive, but without voices and movements, they won’t be any different than dolls or other toys that kids play with and no one would accord them much attention. What is unseen is significant to the visible performance of a Puppet Show and that by large determines the success of the show!
We humans focus so much on what we consciously perceive, that we ignore the major preconscious and unconscious zones of our minds. What is concealed comprises of more than what is revealed. And, this concealed zone influences the revealed zone greatly.
This article is not about training the preconscious and unconscious minds. Rather, the intent of this article is to drive home the point that since a person is more than what you and I see him or her as, and since a person’s behaviour is regulated by factors more than what is seen in the external environment, we need to be sensitive to each other’s mental health.
Who are the target groups?
Starting from foetal stage till grey hairs right upto the grave – each one needs mental health care.
Mental health deterioration in a person (if it happens) starts from the time s/he is conceived owing to environmental stressors and genetic predispositions. When we ensure sound mental health of an expectant mother, we ensure sound mental health of the baby that is born. If the foetus growing within the mother is indirectly exposed to environmental stressors be they in the form of physical/ psychological/sexual/substance abuse, domestic violence, workplace harassment, maternal distress and sicknesses, poor nutrition – the baby that is born either develops a hardy personality (i.e., extreme resilience to stressors and a remarkable ability to cope with them) or develops a vulnerable personality (i.e., extremely sensitive to stressors and ill-equipped to cope with them). Besides purely medical conditions, the genesis of mental ill-health begins from this stage. Hence, foetal mental health is of utmost importance.
Children’s mental health needs a lot of attention too. The way children are shaped and cared for reflects in their adult lives. While the mental health of all children is crucial, those who suffer from disabilities and consequently from low self-esteem, those from single parent or parent absent families, those from war torn parts of the world, those subjected to abuse, those exposed to trauma and other disturbing life events – need specific mental health care.
Adolescent mental health care is crucial as the youngsters leap from childhood into adulthood and dabble with identity, acceptance and self-esteem issues. As they experiment with looks, relationships, careers and largely detest the tons of parental advice that are heaped on them, as they taste success or meet failures – there mental health needs attention. If the adolescent suffers from physical or psychological disorders/ disabilities, targetted mental health care is essential. This is precisely the stage when adolescents need to understand and accept that it is absolutely vital to seek good counsel.
Healthy adults shape up a healthy world. Numerous factors can mar an adult’s mental health. Starting from a lack of social acceptance, repressed childhood memories, to job hazards (harassment, exploitation, deprivation of rights and entitlements, unhygienic environment, layoffs), personal or familial ill-health, financial crises, family disputes, domestic violence, substance abuse and many more such additions to the list – an adult’s mental health requires a lot of care.
During the sunset years of life when one lies in a phase of apparent relaxation, mental health needs to be cared for. This is the time when most aged people are left uncared for, given menials and in many cases given the least attention. This is the time when they feel unwanted, when their desires are left unmet and their thoughts wander without expression. This is the time when most of the aged suffer from various illnesses. While a seed that promises to bear fruits needs care and nurturance, a tree that has borne fruits and flowers throughout life needs to be proffered due dignity.
So you see, all stages of life require mental health care just as they require physical health care.
With this I come to another important aspect which I would urge everyone to ponder upon.
Is mental health consideration meant for the educated and the affluent alone? What about that tramp on the street, the maid in the house, that ragpicker, the child labourer, the trafficked girl in the brothel and all those who find themselves at the receiving end of educational, social, economical deprivation? Those whose primary concerns are two square meals a day, a few old clothes on the body and perhaps someone’s doorstep for shelter? Who cares for their mental health, if at all?
With an unprecedented pandemic hitting the world which was at the helm of economic, technological, social progress like never before – mental health has suffered severe battering. In the last one and half years, there have been reports of increase in crime and domestic violence of humungous proportions – a majority of which have been under reported or have gone unreported. Millions of people have been rendered jobless. Thousands have lost their loved ones. Children have been orphaned.
While mental health professionals are doing their bit to help a wounded world, what can you and I do?
- Recognize the need for sound mental of those around you – your spouse, parents, children, siblings, neighbours, colleagues, superiors, subordinates, domestic helps, caregivers, service providers and anyone who you come in contact with.
- Cater to their mental health to the extent you can – Understanding words, appreciation, encouragement, connecting to legal/ medical/ mental health professionals as the requirement may be.
- Be sensitive – Do not share sensitive details of one person with others without their permission.
- Take care of your own mental health – In order to cater to and be sensitive to others’ mental health, one’s own mind needs to be in good health. Take a break when required. Do things that relax you. Arrange for like-minded caregivers to fill in for you in your daily chores as you care for your mind.
- Pray – Health is a blessing from God. He alone can grant the serenity and well-being of the mind when the tides rise against us. Whether you are in bliss or in the tumultuous tempests, pray that God keeps your mind tranquil and supple.
God’s plan for mankind was never chaos and destruction. But since we have driven ourselves into it, our mental health has suffered a severe beating. Seeking His strength, we can collectively work together for our own and others’ psychological well-being. May the theme of Mental Health Day 2021 be our focus for life: Mental Health in an Unequal World.