Having ‘Peace of Mind' is not a strenuous job; it is an effortless process! And yet, it is this health of the mind which eludes many. The National Human Rights Commission estimates that there are 20 million people in the country who suffer from serious mental health ailments and then there are about 50 million people who have some or the other type of mental problem.
According to WHO (World Health Organization), mental health is "not just the absence of mental disorder but a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community".
So, mental health is more than the absence of mental illness. Even though many of us may not be suffering from a diagnosable mental disorder, some of us are likely to be mentally healthier than others. A healthy mind in a healthy body is necessary for our overall well being.
In today’s world, stress and depression seem to have become buzz words, especially among the youngsters. So much so, that the WHO fears that by 2020 depression alone will be the second biggest ailment in the world after heart disease. Most of the stresses are caused by low self esteem and fear of rejection. Accepting oneself and others as they are, is the fundamental behavioral change which can train youngsters to handle stress.
The mental health of our children is pathetic. I am not talking of those who are diagnosed with a particular medical mental disorder. But what would you call a child who throws violent tantrums if his/her wishes (of buying a particular thing, or eating a favourite dish, or visiting a particular place) are not complied with. It is a common scenario in many urban middle class families, where children sometimes behave as if they were ‘possessed’. To a large extent, overindulgence or draconian strictness on the part of parents gives rise to disorderly behavior and a mentally sick disposition.
Then again, suicide is a major cause for the death of people in the age group of 10 and 24 years. These days news papers are replete with incidences of students, young and old, ending their lives at the drop of a hat. And the reasons seem so trivial at times— not performing well in an exam, being jilted by the lover, not getting a campus placement of choice—the list seems to be foolishly endless. All this is a sign of mental weakness-- the inability to handle any crisis in life. It is not uncommon for youngsters to resort to drug abuse and/or violent outbursts to relieve their stress.
According to Dr Alok Bajpai, a Psychiatrist based in Kanpur, "Thirty per cent of the so called ‘normal’ schools going kids require mental health care otherwise they will be forced to live in ‘learnt' helplessness." Asserting that 90 per cent behavioral disorders in children are due to the environment and society, Dr Bajpai feels that most of these problems are because of the education system. “Goal of education must be to free the mind, it must not enchain and produce individuals with wrapped personality,” said Dr Bajpai.
The focus should not be on mental handicap, but on the internal or external distress which warps the psychosocial development of children-- aspects often neglected both by the family and by professionals.
Dr Augustine Veliath, UNICEF’s communication specialist, feels that “Mental health is a forgotten right of child development and we need to focus in this direction. As parents what we can really give our children is not money and expensive gifts but a patient ear and loving care.”
If this is the status in seemingly normal homes, one can well imagine the plight in states plagued with insurgency and violent conflicts. Dr Arshid, a a psychiatrist with the Government Mental Health College in Srinagar says that the conflict in Kashmir is directly and indirectly responsible for the increase in suicide, depression, psychosis and drug abuse.
According to the WHO mental health services are much underfunded - especially in low- and middle-income countries. Countries should integrate mental health into primary health care, and improve community-based mental health services, rather than just providing care in large psychiatric hospitals. This is exactly what MSF has been doing in Kashmir since 2002.
“What we have been witnessing with our presence in Kashmir for the past seven years is that mental health needs to be an integral component of the overall health system and therefore access should be guaranteed to such a service. That is why we offer such integrated health-related services in Kupwara, northern Kashmir, where mental health care is part of the basic health care programmes” says MSF’s project coordinator Sasha Matthews.
Let us neither be over ambitious nor have a low self esteem. let us eat the right kind of food and have positive thoughts. Only then will we be able to have a disease free mind.
Shobha Shukla - CNS
(The author is the Editor of Citizen News Service (CNS) and also serves as the Director of CNS Gender Initiative and CNS Diabetes Media Initiative (CNS-DMI). She has worked earlier with State Planning Institute, UP. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, website: www.citizen-news.org)
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