We are quick to rush to the hospital if we experience chest pain; we are ready to pop in pills for conditions like high BP, high cholesterol, and diabetes. But we are reluctant to seek treatment for mental health issues. That’s right, isn’t it? But did you know, emotional stress and other mental disorders are a major contributing factor for all of these physical illnesses? With today, the 10th of October being World Mental Health Day, we got in touch with renowned Clinical Psychologist Dr Prerna Kohli, who practices Logotherapy, to talk to us about the importance of Mental Health. Dr Kohli is also a published author and works as a volunteer therapist at Tihar Jail, and a life skills coach at the Gurgaon and Aligarh prison.
Hello Doctor. We can’t help but admit that mental health is often ignored in our country. So, could you tell us a little bit about why it’s as important as physical health?
Mental health is often ignored because we don’t understand the depth of these issues. India is the most depressed country in the world and that’s not me saying this, these are statistics by WHO (World Health Organization). India accounts for 17% for worldwide death by suicides and that is a cause of concern. The overall statistics around mental health in India are alarming
- A student commits suicide every hour in India
- Every 3 seconds there is an attempted suicide in India
- 22.4% of the Indian population above the age of 18 years in age suffer from substance abuse disorder
- Over 56.7 million people in India suffer from Depression
- Only 0.06% of the health care budget in India is spent on Mental Healthcare
- There is a severe shortage of specialists in India, there are only 4000 psychiatrists, 3500 psychologists and 3500 mental health social workers
- While 150 million Indians need mental health care, only 30 million are seeking care
Therefore, I think it is vital to give due attention to mental health.
That’s really a cause for concern. What’s your take on stress due to work and mental health at the workplace. Nobody talks about it!
We are a generation consumed by our careers, we often forget to separate our personal and professional lives. We bring our burden and work back home with us and that causes a lot of stress. What needs to be done here is to create a healthy work-life balance. Mental health issues also result in less productivity. Hence, organizations need to create a positive work environment for employees to thrive.
That’s true. So, how can we help others who may be suffering from mental health issues? What are the typical symptoms to look out for?
Signs of mental illness can be seen in a person’s personal, professional and social aspects of lives. The person might avoid going out, their sleeping pattern is disturbed, they often fall sick, their concentration and decision making deteriorates, they might have thoughts and talks about death, there is a loss of interest in things previously enjoyed.
The first and foremost thing to do is to identify the signs and encourage them to seek professional help. And also create a safe environment for them to communicate, be empathetic and understanding. Help them get involved in activities and most importantly watch out for any signs or comments about suicide and inform them to the mental health professional.
In a country like ours, where any mental illness is a taboo, how can we make the situation better and talk openly about it?
Mental health is still a taboo because people are not aware of what mental health issues might look like. First, all of us together need to educate ourselves and then spread awareness. To talk openly about mental health, we need to create a more accepting environment which comes from a change in thoughts of society. I don’t ask for much but a society where a person who is suffering from a mental illness feels accepted and does not hesitate to ask for help.
What would you say are the basic steps through which people can keep their mental health in check? When would you say is the time to seek medical health?
One of the most beneficial and basic step to keep oneself healthy (mentally and physically) is to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Basic things like eating healthy, having a good sleep of 7-8 hours and exercising daily are very important. Adopting a hobby helps keep the mind engaged and boost self-esteem. Breathing exercises and meditation help soothe the individual. It is time to seek help from a professional when the person is not able to cope with stress and that shows to affect his/her personal health, social or work life.
Lastly, does diet, exercise, alcohol & smoking has any effect on our mental health?
Yes, definitely! As discussed in the previous question, a healthy diet and exercising daily helps a lot in maintaining a healthy body and mind. Whereas alcohol and smoking are concerned, while a drink or smoke after a difficult day might help you feel relaxed but consuming it in the long run, it increases anxiety, depression and makes it difficult to cope with stressful situations. It is also a vicious circle of mental health issues and drinking or smoking, hence it is important to consume them in moderation.
Okay, people. We hope you took pointers from our insightful conversation with Dr Prerna Kohli. We hope you take care of yourselves and even of those around you.
Featured Image Source: Escb.co.uk