CHENNAI: Everyone from the World Health Organisation to the Prime Minister is talking about it. Yet, specialists feel there is still a long way to go before mental health issues are taken as seriously as they should be taken.
Mumbai student, Arjun Bhardwaj's death is an indication of this. The 23-year-old jumped from his hotel room at the Taj Land’s End Hotel on Monday evening. Bharadwaj had also put up a tutorial where he spoke about how to commit suicide on Facebook, which has now been removed from the social networking site. (READ HERE)
While it has opened up the discussion on depression in the virtual world some of the comments on the deceased student's page reveal a lack of sensitivity and understanding about how deep-rooted depression is in our society.
The WHO's theme for World Health Day 2017 on Friday is "Depression: Let's talk" and psychiatrists feel this is a fundamental aspect of addressing the issue.
"For physical diseases, people immediately consult a doctor," explained Dr. Balakrishnan, psychiatrist at Ramachandra Hospital. "But for mental health problems, there is a lot of stigma attached to visiting a psychiatrist. Depression is easily preventable and treatable with the right kind of support and sometimes medication."
Some doctors feel that many cases of depression are a result of an improper work-life balance and the fast pace of our lives today.
"A lot of my patients don't have a proper work-life balance." said Dr. S. Bevin, a psychiatrist working at Relax Mind Clinic. "There are small ways to help with depression - engage in physical activity in the morning preferably, sleep well and most importantly do not not skip breakfast. It has been proven that those who skip breakfast are more prone to depression."
Counsellors too emphasised how depression is a very real condition today that cannot be brushed under the carpet.
"Depression is definitely on the rise," said Sneha Hindocha, a psychological counsellor. "Studies suggest that by 2020, everyone will face depression of some sort. There should be an environment where people are encouraged to go through therapy. Even when on medication, talking about their issues and feeling positive about the healing process is very important and counselling helps with that."
Both doctors and counsellors alike feel that medication is not necessary to treat depression unless it is chronic. Most cases, they said, just need an attentive ear and sensitive approach.
"People these days want quick solutions," explained Hindocha. "But if it is a psychological condition they're dealing with, medication only helps up to a point. It is more important to address the root cause of the issue and tackle that."
Doctors stressed that with the exam season on, parents, friends, and teachers must remain alert for telling signs of depression as they felt a lot of children are 'not trained to cope with failure.'
"It is not true that there are no signs when people slump into depression," said Dr Balakrishnan. "The most common signs are disturbed sleep, lethargy, disinterest in pleasurable activities, unease when communicating and retreating into a shell."
Many people who have approached counsellors for help, swear by their effectiveness. Sagarika Krishnan, who was suffering from anxiety a couple of years ago, is one such example.
"Initially when my family suggested it, I was infuriated," she said. "I thought they were sending me to a counsellor because they thought I was mad. But when I visited the counsellor, she explained what was going on scientifically and showed me techniques to control my anxiety. Today, I know how to handle my anxiety."
Krishnan stressed the importance of a support system to cope with the condition. "Having a solid support system is crucial. My family was extremely supportive. And that is what people who go through mental health issues need - people to talk to and support."
Rebecca Abraham* too was extremely hesitant to visit her college counsellor. "I had anger management issues that were weighing down on me," she said. "I am a very private person and did not want to speak to family or friends about it as I knew it would hurt them to see me in that condition. But after speaking to the counseller, I felt much lighter."
The internet has helped numerous people get access to practitioners without worrying about being judged by others. "Practo has helped people approach counsellors and psychiatrists easily," said Hindocha. "Earlier, the stigma attached to visiting us was so much that they wouldn't take that step. As Practo provides an easy way for them to quietly find help, I have seen a rise in the number of patients I see."
(*Name has been changed to protect privacy)