She is your classmate, the overachiever who has no friends. Faced with absurdly high expectations, and the absence of any form of recreation, she spirals into self-destructive thoughts that she hides inside her thick shell.
He is your neighbour, and from your balcony you can always hear his parents fighting. He is convinced that no one really cares about him, gets involved with the wrong kind of people and seeks solace in substance abuse -- all hopeless pleas for attention.
She may even be your cousin, stuck in an unhappy marriage and frustrated with her perfunctory life.
These stories are not uncommon; these people are all around us, and we turn a blind eye to them. Being constantly ignored, small cases of depression turn into tragic incidents like suicides, which happen all too often in Bangladesh.
When anyone tries to talk about mental wellbeing, someone will simply scoff and retort, “People are dying hungry and he has depression? Whatever!” How long will we go on pretending this problem does not exist, and more importantly, that it is 'shameful’? Isn't it about time that we wake up from our haze of negligence?
Mental health is just as important as physical health. The problem is, because it's not visible like a physical injury, people do not prioritise it. One in four people will, at some point in their life, experience some kind of mental health problem.
Just because you are not in the right emotional place, does not mean you are losing your mind. Remember that having a mental health problem is NOT a sign of weakness. Anyone can have problems with their mental health regardless of sex, age or family background.
What triggers a mental health problem is difficult to generalise. Particular incidents can affect some people more than others. Some factors which can trigger a period of poor mental health include, but are not exclusive to, childhood trauma, loneliness, discrimination, death of a loved one, unemployment, a long-term physical condition and genetics. In addition, stress is an extremely common underlying factor.
Among adults, depression and anxiety are quite common disorders. Depression involves an increase in the intensity and the duration of uncomfortable emotions. Anxiety is increased worry and can cause apprehension. Both can cause impairment socially or at work.
If you feel someone around you requires support, and you think you can have a sensitive conversation with them without seeming untoward, ask them to talk to someone who specialises in dealing with such cases.
Often, people who are suffering from depression or anxiety are reluctant to pursue professional help themselves because they are afraid this means they are 'crazy.' Do not try to analyse their feelings yourself. Play a supportive role; ask them if they would like you to assist them in finding a specialist.
The two most common ways of treating mental disorders are medication and 'talking therapy.'
Therapy provides a space where feelings and worries can be shared openly, to ease the burden on one's mind. Prescription medication does not cure mental health problems but aim to mitigate distressing symptoms.
Do not use medication without consulting a certified and renowned psychiatrist. Medication related to mental health are extremely sensitive and can cause dangerous side effects if misused. It's also important for all of us to know the difference between a psychiatrist and a psychologist.
A psychiatrist has a medical degree, and the ability to prescribe medicine. A psychologist studies the science of psychology, and provides non-medication mental health treatment. Psychiatrists and psychologists often work together in the treatment of patients.
A psychologist is not able to write prescriptions, but may recommend a patient to a psychiatrist in order to receive medication. On the other hand, a psychiatrist might refer a patient to a psychologist for counselling and/or mental health therapy.
Both occupations are concerned with a patient's emotional wellbeing, but a psychiatrist's focus is primarily towards disorders such as chemical imbalance, whereas a psychologist mainly focuses on a patient's thoughts, feelings and general mental health.
While knowledge on cures is all well and good, it is also about time that we take preventive measures and ensure the emotional wellbeing of our family, friends, colleagues, employees and even acquaintances.
Let us free our society from the stigma of poor mental health. Our physical and mental wellbeing together make up our life as a whole. Prioritising one and completely undermining the other is an irresponsible decision. Help create a non-judgemental space where everyone feels accepted.
“What's on your mind?” Do not be afraid to ask, and do not be afraid to answer.