(Video Producer: Kunal Mehra)
(World Mental Health Day, an international day to raise awareness and fight the stigma of mental health, falls on 10 October. FIT is republishing this story in the run-up to World Mental Health Day to bust some common myths around mental health and illness.)
(If you feel suicidal or know someone in distress, please reach out to them with kindness and call these numbers of local emergency services, helplines, and mental health NGOs)
First things first:
Mental health is not a fad. Mental illness is a real, medical problem - JUST like diabetes or asthma.
The mental health discourse and media coverage of late Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput has taken an ugly turn, revealing just how stigmatised mental health is and just how poor our understanding of mental illness is.
FIT is here to bust some common myths around mental illness and create room for more kindness and support to people with mental health issues.
Myth 1: Mental Illness is Not Real
Mental health and illness is so stigmatised, it’s made almost invisible. It can become easier to believe that it doesn't exist at all! But we need to listen closer -and talk to the people around us to see just how common mental illness really is.
According to the Americal Association of Psychiatry, mental illnesses are health conditions involving changes in emotion, thinking or behaviour (or a combination of these). Mental illnesses are associated with distress and/or problems functioning in social, work or family activities.
They’re extremely common, and nothing to be ashamed of. This is important to stress in the wake of the recent conversations on depression and bipolar disorder, which seem to shame or stigmatise the conditions.
Myth 2: No Medical Evidence
Recently Bollywood actress Kangana Ranaut tweeted about mental illness having no medical basis. Countless mental health professionals and medical professionals countered her, but we wanted to remind you:
If someone says they’re struggling, what we can do is listen to them and believe them.
The stigma around mental health and illness in India makes it extremely difficult for patients to seek help. Mental illnesses are real health conditions and can be treated with regular therapy, medication, peer support or a combination of these. The point is, they are very much real and manageable.
Saying mental illnesses are not real only adds to the stigma and can lead to preventable suffering and death. There are professionals to help with these health conditions.
Myth 3: It’s Just a Business!
These days everyone has an opinion on mental health. And that’s awesome, we should all be talking about this more.
But in our conversations, we’ve got to remember that to be an expert we do need to have certain qualifications and we can only practice and therefore diagnose people or disorders with authority then.
A psychologist has a minimum qualification of a master’s degree in counselling or clinical psychology. A psychiatrist has the qualification of M.D. In psychiatry.
Psychiatrists are required to complete four years of undergraduate school, four years of medical school, and a further three to seven years of internship and specialized residency training. To be a counsellor, a person has to be professionally trained in counselling or clinical psychology.
Myth: You are too Happy/Powerful/Successful to be Depressed
We can’t diagnose someone just by looking at them.
Mental health is so much more than how much you are smiling, how much you’re laughing,how you look or how successful you are.
Read our story on more mental health myths here.