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Stop ignoring your mental health

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Azra Mufti

It has been four years since I visited Pingla House in Punjab, a house for destitute and mentally retarded but the memories are fresh. An old lady waiting for her sons to take her, an unmarried girl waiting for her parents and a small girl holding her drawing book, this scene often haunts me, it shakes me from within and compels me to draw lessons from brutal incidents of life. I have always been a very sensitive person, the mere sight of blood pains me, painful stories of people make me feel empathetic and death scenes scare the hell out of me. Deserted and shrieking silent cries of Pingla House inhabitants have been with me ever since then. It brings me to ponder upon the gory state of my own homeland.
Mental health is as important as our physical health and I believe it deserves more importance than what we actually give it. We as a society have failed to give the importance that our mental health deserves to be given. It is a silent evil that is eating up our society and robbing it of its sanity. WHO has reported that in year 2020, depression will be the second biggest burden affecting the productivity of organizations, yet we fail to take note of it. What pains me more is the indifference of society towards victims who need love at care while battling diseases like depression and anxiety issues. We label them as insane, mad, lunatics, morons without knowing the struggles they are juggling through.
A person who is suffering from any mental issue finds it difficult to maintain his daily routine and often ends up being anti-social, he sleeps less, talks less and eats less but initially we fail to acknowledge these symptoms and shout at them without realizing the gravity of situation. Mental health issues affect our behavioral and psychological wellbeing, it also affects our decision making process and our perceptual skills, thus having a careless attitude towards our mental health can often land us in unwanted and embarrassing situations.
It is unfortunate that today’s generation is being exposed to the worst kind of lifestyle. They binge eat junk food, invest more time in scrolling screens, do not get adequate sleep, hardly play outdoor games and do not exercise, all these activities severely affect the mental health of growing adults and make them anti-social and mentally unfit.
Further the stigma associated with mental health do not allow people to get proper and timely treatment for these issues. Due to fear of social labels and maltreatment, most of the cases seep under the carpet unnoticed. Some of the most common diseases are depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and eating disorders like bulimia and anorexia nervosa. These disorders do not affect a particular individual but their loved ones too who have to be a part of their sufferings.
Families have to be an effective support system for these victims and play an active role in their recovery process. Patients can recover if they seek timely treatment and proper medication. Vague concepts about mental health often lead to diagnostic confusions, to prevent this, a victim needs to speak openly about his problems to the psychologists or psychiatrists’ and follow the medication. People who fear therapeutic nihilism should shun their fears and take life-saving drugs to avoid any kind of panic episode.
A lot of scientists have argued about the origin of mental health disorders and most of them have come up with different theories and explanations. Some believe that disorders occur due to the abnormal balance of neurotransmitters in our brain, some link it to heredity and genes, and some link it to infections (as in case of pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorder, PANDA) and brain injuries. Whatever the reasons may be, we should focus on solutions not on problems. What I believe that recreation clubs should be started where patients talk with likeminded people who suffer from same issues and talk openly without the fear of being judged. Next big thing is to shun the stigma associated with it by treating mental health as physical health and not labeling it. Awareness programmes should be conducted to educate youth about these issues and aware them.