Lifting the shroud 

By Vidya Iyengar | Express News Service | Published: 20th June 2020 06:40 AM
PIC: Pandarinath B

BENGALURU: A sense of being stuck, depressive thoughts, lurking fear of death... these are the issues that the pandemic has brought with it. And particularly affected by it is the young population, for whom this outbreak has taken an emotional toll. At a time when the lens is on mental health, consultant psychologist and psychotherapist Meera Haran Alva’s book, Young Mental Health, delves into the several mental health issues that they face. Alva, who is the daughter-in-law of politician Margaret Alva and wife of Nivedith Alva, co-authored the book with mediaperson Amrita Tripathi. The collaboration was a result of similar interests and ties that date back to 20 years ago when the two were flatmates in Delhi.  

Alva feels the book – a pure coincidence in terms of the timing, considering the goings-on in recent times – is the need of the hour, coming out at a time when people are receptive to these issues. The second book in a three-part series, Young Mental Health, delves into multiple issues – body image disorders, abuse, bullying, suicide – plaguing children and young adolescents in particular.

“There are two aspects to the book, one of advocating mental health, especially in the Indian context where there is lack of resources and absence of child and adolescent psychologists and psychotherapists. Second, there is no scope to have conversations in homes and families. So, most end up simply living with issues,” says Alva who has been a mental health professional for 17 years.  

Published by Simon & Schuster and currently priced at Rs 206 for the Kindle version, the book, the paperback version of  which is likely to release soon, draws from the professional experiences of both the authors, and puts on paper anecdotes and stories of those who have struggled with issues not often talked about, alarming statistics, case studies and analyses from years of experience. “While it deals with heavy issues, we have used comics and illustrations to make it relatable. The idea is to normalise these conversations and at the same time demystify therapy,” she says about the book which is meant for anyone who has been young or has young people in their life.   

With those having experienced issues coming on record to share their stories, including Dr Amit Sen (a senior child and adolescence psychiatrist who himself struggled with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) who was written the foreword, Alva understands that these could be trigger warnings for readers. “There is of course no one-size-fits-all model, and we have been careful to ensure that the book isn’t prescriptive. Our main challenge was to be cautious especially since the content is sensitive.

So we have provided third-party helplines to seek support,” she says.  While the first part dealt with depression – Real Stories of Dealing With Depression, the third, Age of Anxiety, will look at anxiety, as the name suggests. But right now, the authors are hoping that their book gives rise to dialogue and demystification.

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