Mental Well Being – #Superbloggerchallenge2018 #Instacuppa
One evening, when I was in my second year in college in IIT, I was sitting with some of my friends in the common room of our hostel and we were all talking about health in general. One of my close friends suddenly came up with this question: “which is the worst disease one can possibly end up with in life?” Well, immediately all of us burst out with our individual opinions. Some said cancer, a few others mentioned AIDS and there were numerous other answers ranging from Leprosy to Leucoderma.
One of my friends who had been silently listening to all that was being said spoke up finally. He said: “the worst form of illness one can possibly end up with is insanity.” He further proceeded to give us his reasons for the stand he had taken. He pointed out that in any form of physical ailment, one does not loose one’s ability to think logically and make decisions whereas when it comes to insanity, a person loses his capacity to make correct decisions and to discern things. In short it is like being brain dead without losing one’s consciousness.
I was wondering at first whether to write this article on physical health or mental health. Then I got reminded of the above mentioned conversation I had a long time back when I was a young man and I decided to write on mental health. At the outset I want to dispel the taboo surrounding mental illness which is prevalent in society, especially in India and other third world countries. People jump to conclusions and imagine there is something mentally wrong with a person as soon as they notice some minor aberration in one’s behavior or some personal idiosyncrasy. This is really not the case.
There is no one in this world who can be termed 100% sane or 100% insane. It is always a range. I once remember someone telling me that a staggering 86% of people in the world exhibit some form of mental disorder or the other. I am not very sure how true this statement is. I am mentioning this only to drive home the point that all of us have our peculiarities and idiosyncrasies and only a psychiatrist who can recognize definite, conclusive, clinically proven symptoms can diagnose mental disorder. In this context I would also like to mention that even people who have gone to a point of no return have their brief moments of sanity.
Another thing is, please remember that many mental disorders are curable and those which are not amenable to a complete cure can be kept well under control by medication and treatment from a good psychiatrist. With the phenomenal advances in psychiatry over the last 40 to 50 years, many psychiatric ailments of the likes of depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder etc can be cured. Please do not think that mental illness is a taboo. With care and proper medication even severe paranoid schizophrenics have been known to become functional and have led a fulfilling life.
You might be wondering how come being an engineer, I am reeling off wise words about psychiatry as if I am some kind of an expert. This is because for several years I have been in close proximity to a friend of mine who has had major psychiatric problems. I am happy to report that my friend is now leading a happy and fulfilling life. If you meet my friend now you would not think there is anything wrong with him. But at different points in time he had been diagnosed with bi-polar, uni-polar, manic-depressive and obsessive-compulsive disorders by different doctors who probably did not know their job.
Now to deal with the crux of mental illness. I am not going to deal with the scientific basis or the internal reasons for mental illness. I will just mention what I know as a layman. Our mental functions are based on chemical interactions in our brain. We are born with a certain character which happens to be the blueprint denoting how we behave under different circumstances. This can also be called our genetic make-up.
This behavioral pattern is governed by our DNA using chemicals. When everything is normal the chemical balance is perfect and people behave under different circumstances as per their blueprint or genetic make-up. When a person is mentally ill, there is an imbalance in the chemical interactions in our brain and people exhibit abnormal behavior which is against their usual self or character. Now to cure this, a psychiatrist tries to give people drugs which will set the chemical balance right and pull them back into the sphere of their normal characteristic behavior. This is as far as I understand about mental illness and its cure.
Next, I will deal with how this imbalance is initiated. Sometimes it is hereditary, sometimes the environment induces the imbalance and the resultant psychiatric problem. If there is a history of mental illness in the family then there are chances that one might end up with a problem. The environmental reasons include high stress, a hectic life-style, improper eating habits and several other such reasons. Sometimes even abuse at a very young age can result in mental illness. Functioning over long periods of time under severe nervous strain without a break can also cause this imbalance.
There are several kinds of psychiatric ailments like depression, schizophrenia and so on. So please, the next time you come across a mentally ill man do not dismiss him off as a nutcase in general terms. He or she might be perfectly functional and might be as capable or even better than you at doing many things.
The challenges faced by the mentally ill are manifold. At least in our country, no one is willing to give a job to the mentally ill. One just cannot dare to admit that he or she has undergone or is undergoing psychiatric treatment in an interview. If they do that, rest assured they will be faced with immediate rejection. Social ostracism is another problem. The mentally ill find it very difficult to get married. They face rejection everywhere.
In a patriarchal society like ours the plight of mentally ill women is even worse that that of men. Sometimes the mentally ill people from the lower economic strata end up taking refuge in gutters.
So what is it that we can do to fight against mental illness? First of all do not let taboos hold you back. The minute you notice an abnormality in yourself or someone close to you, visit a psychiatrist. There is nothing wrong in it. Listen carefully to what he has to say and take things seriously and follow his advise. Sometimes one has to take medicines for a long time. In my friend’s case he is still taking medicines. And do not lie to your doctor about the symptoms. Even if it is something very personal, open up to your doctor and tell him the facts. It is a cardinal sin to lie to a doctor. When you lie to him you are blind-folding him and expecting him to treat you.
Sometimes you may be referred to a counselor. Do what your doctor or counselor tell you to do properly. Taking medication regularly is also extremely important. One main problem is people quite often jump to the conclusion that they have been cured and quit medicines without consulting the doctor and the illness raises its ugly head again. Till your doctor tells you to stop medication don’t stop anything on your own. Don’t try to be your own doctor.
Sometimes one has to make some effort to reduce stress by oneself. Take a break from work every now and then, spend time with family and friends. Yoga, sporting activity of some kind, light reading and many other means of busting stress are also available. As far as abuse at a young age is concerned please keep track of what is happening in your child’s school. It is important to be sure that your child is not getting bullied by his or her peers and that he or she has a good set of friends. Attend parent-teachers meetings regularly no matter how busy your schedule.
Another important factor that contributes to reducing the misery of the mentally ill and making them functional and self sufficient is the amount of support they get from parents, siblings and other relatives. Support from friends is also very important. If your brother, sister, son, daughter or even a friend is mentally unwell please do provide the best moral support you can. It is important to treat the mentally unwell as equals and not as inferiors. Be patient and kind to them without being obvious about it. This improves their self-esteem which is a very important factor in the treatment of the mentally unwell.
I think I have lectured enough. Remember a person with mental illness is not a nutcase. I am writing this article with the hope that I have struck a chord in those of you who are reading this and that you would show some kindness to the next person with mental illness that you meet.
Note: This article has been written as a part of SuperBloggerChallenge2018 conducted by Healthwealthbridge.com, Fashionablefoodz.com, Allaboutthewoman.com and should not be repurposed, republished or used otherwise. The content herein is owned by the blogger. SuperBloggerChallenge2018 is not responsible for any kind of infringement caused.