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The Problem With World Mental Health Day in India

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I am a depression and fibromyalgia survivor in India. With September being Pain Awareness Month and National Suicide Prevention Month, and October 10 being World Mental Health Day, I have been constantly involved in activities both personal and professional that are related to these specific aspects of health.

It is good that I hear the chatter about mental health and invisible disabilities growing in India both online and offline. It is a good sign for the future that even though it’s just a small fragment of our entire population, people are now coming out about their experiences and “reclaiming” their conditions as parts of their legitimate identities, not being afraid or ashamed about it.

However, there is another side to this coin. This increasing chatter about mental health, especially around events like World Mental Health Day, can sometimes also act as a trigger for many. It sometimes does for me.

Just this morning, there was a long discussion about one of my posts about gaslighting on a social media platform. While I was happy to see some people acknowledge how my writing helps them identify this abuse and be more aware about it, for me personally it brought back a lot of traumatic memories from my past where I have survived this kind of abuse myself.

Also, this is the festive season in India where we have a nine day-long festival of goddess worship called Durga Puja. The goddess is essentially worshiped as the mother and that kind of reopens my “mother wound.”

Thus, the symbolism of some of these apparently unrelated social events rake a lot of trauma for a survivor of abuse, or someone in an abusive situation currently.

The dilemma is also that, while reading threads about mental health on social media, people often do recognize that they have a mental health situation but don’t know how to handle it or where to seek help. This remains the problematic area in India. There is a serious lack of certified mental health professionals in India. The ones available are also centered mostly around the bigger cities, leaving smaller towns and villages without any access to quality mental health care.

While internet is now available even in those villages and mental health awareness might be seeping in gradually, help is still missing.

Most schools don’t have a qualified full-time counselor, and children and young adults have nobody to go to in cases of stress or anxiety.

In such a system without support, mere awareness does not always lead to positive end results and might worsen the condition of a few who are struggling.

I might take a digital detox myself, if personal and professional commitments shall allow.

May every one find better mental health.

Photo by Arun Sharma on Unsplash

Originally published: October 10, 2019
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