All Is Not Well With Our Mind: World Mental Health Day

World Mental Health Day: 10 October
Buddha looked at the water and then he looked up at the disciple and said,"See what you did to make the water clean. You let it be, and the mud settled down on its own - and you have clear water. Your mind is like that too! When it is disturbed, just let it be. Give it a little time.... it will settle down on its own. You don’t have to put in any effort to calm it down. It will happen. It is effortless."

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 the World Health Organization (WHO), 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.

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 year the theme is "Investing in mental health". Financial and human resources allocated for mental health are inadequate especially in low resource countries. The majority of low- and middle-income countries spend less than 2% of their health budget on mental health. 
Many countries have less than one mental health specialist per one million population. Even a considerable part of the limited resources is spent on large mental hospitals and not for services delivered through community and primary health care. 
We need to increase investment for mental health and to shift the available resources towards more effective and more humanitarian forms of services.

Also, 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 Managing Editor of Citizen News Service (CNS). She is a J2J Fellow of National Press Foundation (NPF) USA. She has worked earlier with State Planning Institute, UP and taught physics at India's prestigious Loreto Convent. Email: shobha@citizen-news.org, website: http://www.citizen-news.org)

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