• Rupa Parthasarathy

Lend a voice to Mental Health

Just like a single flame burns away the darkness, it is when we lend our voice to mental health, we can change the misconception of the word from illness to wellness.

When it comes to taking care of health, it is physical health that gnaws most attention, and the one we readily lend our voice to. The majority, seem to effortlessly engage in discussions about exercise regimes, diet plans, sleep cycles, strategies that would help improve one’s physical health, not only with near and dear ones but even with total strangers. Without any concern about social judgement, we openly share workout schedules, meal plans, and recommend fitness instructor to others. As for many, taking care of physical health paints the story of investing in fitness, rarely the imagery of combating illness.

On the contrary, when the discussion steers to mental health, it is the imagery of someone dealing with an illness that dominates. There is still a widespread misconception that only people experiencing mental illness require to nurture mental health. Somehow the word mental health gets confused with mental health conditions like anxiety disorders, depression, schizophrenia and others (Beyond Blue, 2019). What is more concerning is the inability to have open and honest conversations about mental health even with our closest ones. Heavily influenced by the current social media culture, many are comfortable reaching out to millions, about the hours spent sweating at the gym, however, go to great lengths to avoid talking about any issues, stresses that concern mental health. Many prefer to endure breaking out in a sweat about life stresses in silence, behind closed doors, for fear that any mention about one’s mental health, will affect our social perception adversely. There is a cloud of shame that stops us from admitting strong emotions or discussing our inability to cope sometimes.

“Mental Health is defined as a state of wellbeing in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community” (World Health Organisation (WHO), 2014).

By the above definition, imagine a sliding scale, mental health resides on “what’s going well” end, and mental health conditions on “what’s going wrong” end of the scale (Beyond Blue, 2019). Nurturing one’s mental wellbeing takes conscious and consistent effort. Carving out little snippets of time every day, from our busy routines, is a great way to focus on our mental hygiene. A quiet minute of conscious breathing, a few minutes of intentional reflecting, reading a book, journal writing, a regular catch up with a friend or relative, pursuing a hobby, gardening, playing with kids or pets, learning a new skill are some of the strategies, when practised regularly can help nourish one’s mental health.

As human beings, one’s overall health is affected by the overlapping influences of physical, mental, spiritual and social health. Paying attention to only one part, while ignoring the others by suppressing any expression stops us from living a productive life. It is by investing attention to one’s holistic health and by tending to all aspects of our health equally, one can build resilience.

Just like a single flame burns away the darkness, it is when we lend our voice to mental health, we can change the misconception of the word from illness to wellness. And it is through the strength of our collective voices, we can help erase the myths about mental health conditions and subsequently start tackling the stigma surrounding mental health conditions.

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