CHENNAI: What do you do when you have a broken bone, an ear infection or a raging fever? Consult a medical professional. So, why is it that when it comes to mental health struggles, there are still so many of us who are repulsed by the idea of consulting a professional? Stigma and reluctance to go to therapy have always been a concern in India. “That’s why I wrote this book. It was an eye-opening journey for me when I started this book a year ago and gained mountains of insights from senior psychologists,” began CecureUs CEO Viji Hari, talking about her new release Break The Taboo. On Thursday, in the presence of psychologist Bhavna Barmi, HR professional Chidambar Sirdeshpande, and many more in the audience, Viji unveiled the cover of her second book and led into a discussion regarding the state of mental health in the personal and professional lives of Indians.
Break the Taboo shares real-life counselling short stories for employees and employers. It deals with myriad issues — postpartum depression, clinical depression, suicidal thoughts, mood swings, and low self-esteem — through personal accounts shared by psychologists. In the process of narrating the person’s experience, the book also decodes what happens behind closed doors of therapy and in boxes, following the anecdote, elaborates on information regarding the discussed issue.
Working in the human resources industry, Viji has dealt with sexual harassment, discrimination and mental wellness cases for several years. She mentions that many employees have benefitted from incorporating therapy in their lives. Chidambar agreed, adding that the focus of organisations have shifted from targets to the mental and physical well-being of employees. “Many organisations have begun investing in mental health. Counselling has become very important, especially now, with the added stresses of the pandemic. Awareness is still an issue, primarily in smaller organisations, but it has been evident that counselling is beneficial to the employees and their families, ” he said, adding that the development and growth of an organisation is dependent on an employee and thus, it must try to understand what the person is going through.
Bhavna, an award-winning psychologist, who has contributed to the project, shared that the pandemic has brought in an epidemic of mental health struggles. Unfortunately, many stayed wrapped up in misconceptions and stigma — “it’s attention-seeking or only for those with severe mental illnesses” — and remained unaware of the process. When asked when one must seek help, she said, “There are three points. First, when your body or mind gives you a signal, such as stress, unhealthy appetite, irregular sleep cycle, difficulty in concentration. Second, when life throws at you difficult obstacles such as the loss of a loved one, divorce, and work-related issues. And finally, in extreme cases, when you fall out of touch with reality. But in all cases, don’t be embarrassed to seek help.” On the bright side, she added, there has been more social awareness in the past few years leading to the inclusion of virtual elements to ease the process — therapy on texts, calls, video calls, and apps for mental health.
The event closed with a short pop-up quiz about mental health. While the audience didrather well, one has to wonder if our nation, as a whole, could do as much in terms of awareness and acceptance. There is still a long way to go when it comes to mental health but this discussion has played its small role.