Only recently an old school friend came to meet me, upon asking him the reason for us being out of touch for so long, he informed me that the past three years had been tough on him and that he had been suffering from depression.
I immediately asked him if he consulted a psychologist, to which he replied that he had wanted to, and even though his family admitted that he was going through some mental illness, they were very resistant to take him to a psychologist.
What is most alarming here is that the family, the immediate support system, was not ready to rescue and provide their own child the support he so desperately needed: just because they placed concerns about the potential responses from their community over the well being and mental health of their own child.
Mental health is as important as physical health for one’s quality of life. Unfortunately, most of the people in our society simply ignore it. They have this belief that if they consult a psychologist, they would be stigmatized and labeled as “psycho”, “pagal”, “mental case” – to name a very few and it would become very difficult, in their own mind, to regain the confidence to talk to others and be socially active.
Sometimes what we forget to consider is that society would not accept you even otherwise. You need to take charge of your life and seek treatment if you experience any mental health related issue. Mental illness can happen to anybody, irrespective of age, gender, level of education and socio-economic status. Even people we tend to idealize, like celebrities including Deepika Padukone, Anum Tanoli and Robin Williams suffered from mental illnesses.
According to the World Health Organization, around 15 million people in Pakistan are currently suffering from mental health illnesses, particularly depression, however excluding all those people with mental illnesses who go unreported in our society because they just don’t consider mental illness an illness at all.
Being much unbiased, let me ask you a question: do you wait or refuse to contact a doctor for small viruses such as cold, flu, allergy or headache? I wouldn’t think so – I know I certainly don’t. Then why don’t you give heed to your mental health and resist consulting a psychologist when suffering from mental health related-issues such as depression, anxiety or anger? The reality is that people can spend hundreds of thousands on buying clothes, in beauty parlors and eating lavish food in restaurants, which I am certainly not condemning at all, but when they face the need of taking care of their mind, they have reservations of consulting a therapist. Unfortunately, people have stopped looking after their mental health, which is in fact our true source of beauty and power. We have this unconscious belief that our mind cannot be seen by others, so it is okay to roam around taking the mental sickness and internal struggles along.
At the end of the day, social stigma should never stop you from seeking treatment for something when you need it. Always remember, it is your life and if you start accepting the fact that mental illnesses exist, work to taking care of your mind and make mental health a priority, you will be able to live a much happier life.
By Ahmed Bilal