Mental Health Cognizance or Ignorance Re-branded?

Swerving from pillar to post in a desperate bid to dodge fiery bullets that pursue her, our lady of lust and grace, endeavors to lift the fog that clogs her vision. Rocking back and forth in her cozy rocking chair, an apparent safe space, she weakly smiles back to onlookers, who have a hint of smirk in their gaze. Shrugging her shoulders at the faulty perception that people have of her, she subconsciously tries to break free of shackles that clutch her mind oh-so-tightly ; Shackles of intrusive thoughts that hungrily devour her consciousness!

‘Bzzzz’, her phone buzzes! “Is your dusky complexion leading you to fall in depression? Try the new range of our beauty products”, says the advertisement.

India, the cradle of human race, is the land of diversities. It’s ironic, that a land of culturally heterogeneous people, lags behind in validating supposed ‘outcasts’, with acceptance. The home to a multitude of indigenous languages, voicing emotions explicitly is still not encouraged.

To make it sound a bit less lyrical, India is among the major contributors to deaths by suicide. In consequence, even people who prefer to live under a rock, can’t close their eyes to a subject, as pervasive as this.

Having said that, it doesn’t correspond to a lack of available online material. Social media platforms are brimming with articles and posts on the topic in question, and people in our ecosystem seem to know a great deal about it.

We, with westernization to our aid, have been victorious in bringing about a shift, to a certain degree, in a part of the population’s perception. Although we’ve a long way to go, considering the high illiteracy rate in India, relatively aware people are now, a bit open to the idea of educating themselves on this. With the froth like stigma to one side, even parenting now, includes embracing differential traits in children, and emotional interaction. A well talked about topic among the youth, it isn’t that emotionally exhausting (hopefully) to communicate with reassuring peers.

However, we’ve created a world that plays host to a casual outlook on mental disorders. Either owing to pop culture or tone deaf and aggressive advertising methods, which I’ll come to, this belief has gradually seeped into our society’s mindsets. Now whether the masses’ favorite character in that one cherished sitcom is a neat freak, or gross content that claims to trigger compulsive thoughts, the uncalled for mention of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), doesn’t seem to get people to bat an eye!

And yet, a person coming out as ill from a disorder, raises many eyebrows, some of whose arches don’t incline towards acceptance!

It seems like all of it is reserved for that one day, when the news of a tragedy knocks at our places, rather phone and television screens, and we all gather to mourn the demise of a beloved public figure. Social media platforms on doom days like these, are flooded with posts aimed at paying respect, and unfortunately, also with uninformed opinions and suggestions by ‘supportive’ people, who otherwise fail to check on their friends ; Friends who haven’t been themselves for days on end.

Misinformation and unawareness in contemporary times, I feel, are more of an issue than the archaic, although still prevalent, taboo that encompasses mental health.

Speaking about misinformation, media plays a significant role in sensitizing people to this issue. While internet has exorbitant amounts of content just a click away, some of them get it absolutely wrong!

For every piece of work that encourages people to speak up, and ask for help, there are advertisements that twist symptoms to suit their marketing pitch.

In their quest to sound ‘relatable’, from whitening lotions that claim to ‘cure’ depression, to businesses using crass taglines, that exploit the occurrence of compulsions, a phenomenon experienced by people suffering from OCD, casual marketing is shoved aggressively into our faces, routinely.

This has had a negative effect on people’s perception of mental disorders. OCD is now ‘just’ synonymous to extreme cleanliness, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) to embarrassing incidents, and Depression to common sadness.

Masked beneath this facade of ‘common-to-all’ symptoms, rest compulsive thoughts that have an impact on the survival instincts of the affected people. Their struggles are often overshadowed by casual usage of disorders like these.

With insensitivity around this retreating, the government has decriminalized suicide, which is a step towards taking mental health sincerely.

However, as mentioned above, there’s still a huge gap that we need to cover!

‘People in our ecosystem seem to know a great deal about it’ ; However, the essence of it, to make people feel heard, is often easily neglected.

Switching the phone off, she sighed, and kept it aside. Her reflection in the screen made her wonder, if her under eye bags are heavier than the emotional baggage that she carries! Cracking up, she silently continued to fight the demons, that reside within her.

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