If we cannot see it, does it mean it does not exist? Our need to define everything, our need fit everything into the parameters of what we can touch and feel often limits our ability to be compassionate about what we cannot explain. When someone falls ill and we can see the symptoms, it is easy get help. But what happens when we cannot see or comprehend the symptoms or do not know what to look for? Today mental illness has become a reality that has slowly crept up on us and caught us unaware. These are just as terminal as any other life threatening physical disease. Statistics from the World Health Organisation Report on Depression released earlier this year leave us grappling with shocking realities.
- Almost 7.5% of Indians suffer from major or minor mental disorders that require expert intervention.
- By 2020 this can reach upto 20%
- 5% of Indians (nearly 57 million) suffer from depression Indians
- Another 38 million Indians suffer from anxiety disorders
What scares me about these statistics is that these are based on cases identified. It does not take into account people who are suffering silently. Depression, anxiety, etc. have become household terms today. Nearly 1 in every 5 persons in India today is in need for counselling. What is causing this sudden rise in numbers? What has happened to our world to make it so unhappy? Statics also show that this number has increased drastically in the last decade – nearly 18% worldwide.
Our world as we knew it has seen a revolutionary change in the last two decades. The very definition of happiness and success has changed. There are now new parameters of measuring success and achievements. These have given rise to undue competition which often leads one on a journey to nowhere. This feeling of general discontent and unhappiness can have several reasons. Let’s look at some of them closely –
Changing family structures – Traditionally, a family consisted of multiple generations of people living together in an interdependent structure. The rise of nuclear and single kid families has seen young adults struggling with daily pressures with lack of guidance and support from their elders. At the same time, older generations no longer receive the care and support of their children due to distances and increased work pressures.
Increased competition – The race to excel has created a false sense of competition. Students, working professionals, all seem to be forever under pressure to perform, while the very definition of ‘performance’ itself has changed. The pressure is not only at the work front but also to portray a picture perfect life where one is successful and happy. This success is also now defined by the number of holidays one takes, destinations one visits, gadgets one owns and even the food one eats.
Mixed-up priorities – The fear of losing face at work and among peer group is so high that we have lost touch with what is really important to us. Our priorities are now governed by what others think we should be doing, having, eating, etc. rather than what one really wants and needs.
Technology – While development and advancement of technology has made life easier and brought about a change in our lifestyles, it has also created a lot of confusion about what really matters. The constant need to be sharing and displaying a perfect life is creating a superficial life which may have little in common with reality.
This constant pressure is developing cracks beneath the surface. God forbid if any of these cracks were to become visible. But one cannot run from reality for very long. These warnings that were ignored have surfaced to reveal some ugly truths –
- 3 out of every 100 urban residents suffer from depression
- 5% of corporate employees suffer from depression in India (Source Assocham)
- An average of 371 persons committed suicide daily in 2012 (Source National Crime Records Bureau)
- Most suicide are by people below the age of 44 years (Source WHO)
The social stigma attached to admitting that one may need help prevents most of these cases from being detected or given professional help. It is also disturbing that until now it wasn’t even a recognised form of illness and hence access to treatment has been difficult. India, for instance, has less than 4,000 psychiatrists who can offer professional help. Often these cases also suffer from inaccurate assessment and lack of resources. Now with the passing of the Mental Health Bill, there is hope that adequate resources will be brought in to ensure care to those who need it. Timely detection and early help is key to curing depression and avoiding mishap.
However, problem also lies in the fact that we do not know what to look for. Even if we or someone we love is suffering from mental illness, it is very difficult to identify. With all the technology at hand, relations and friendships have become so distant and superficial that we often do not have the slightest inkling of what one is going through beneath that cool and smiling demeanour. Some of the signs to look for are – lack of interest in daily life, tiredness and fatigue, lack of appetite or sleep, low self-worth, lack of self-esteem, poor concentration. These could signal a problem that may need immediate help and attention. Do not hesitate. Pick up the phone or reach out to seek help! It’s okay!
Theme for this post is ‘Terminal‘
Other posts from this challenge are
October 10th is World Mental Health Day