Battling Stigma in the Era of the Pandemic
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Category : Health
Author : Sufiya Tazeen

The concept of mental health has taken on new momentum in recent times. Be it from passing away of a celebrity to the enforced lockdowns and observing the regulations of the pandemic, everything has been a rough ride. The pandemic has added to existing mental health battles.

The Meaning of Mental Health

In a world which has myriad definitions and understanding of mental health, it’s important to truly realise the essence of what comprises the mental state of a human being. Mental health is the state of well-being in which the individual realises his or her abilities and cope with the daily stresses of life. He or she in a stable mental capacity is able to work productively and is able to effectively contribute to the society.

Mental well-being is of paramount importance in dealing with every aspect of life. A mentally healthy individual strives to bring about a positive impact around oneself. A mentally stable individual is able to effectively empathize and establish a sound relationship both personally and professionally. Whereas, a mentally ill individual can have a difficulty in managing the stresses of life and will always be in a conflict with the challenges of everyday living. A physical wound or a pain in any area of the body is given proper treatment since it is evident and needs to be tended. However, a mental wound or a mental scar, due to its invisible nature is largely ignored, and stigmatized or brushed under the carpet. As a result of which, we hear that cases of depression, anxiety, panic attacks have taken a toll on the lives of people.

“Be Grateful!”

Depression, anxiety, panic attacks, and the very real fear of losing a loved one has made people across the globe more vulnerable to mental health issues. However, ignorance surrounding this issue has also taken a front seat and is causing more damage. Due to the lack of knowledge and deep-seated superstitions, people are not realising the magnitude of this issue. Depression is still seen as a phase which will eventually “pass.” To make things worse, a depressed person is seen to be ungrateful towards life. We get to hear comments like “there are people who are suffering worse, you should be thankful’, “show some gratitude”, “stop being pessimistic, look at the bright side of life” and many such comments which damage the individual to such an extent that they become easy victims of psychological abuse.

As if this was not enough, those people who are struggling often face questions about whether it is a result of their weakened faith or commitment to prayer. People unaware of the mental battle of the individual often give advice assuming that the spiritual state of the person in need is weak. Advice to practice patience and endure the trails of life with a sense of gratitude is given without even empathizing or listening to the painful worries of the person. This is not to say that prayer or supplication is not curative in nature, but that even the most grateful and spiritual people may undergo similar tribulations, and just like we remain open to the treatment of physical injuries, we must also keep an open mind in the case of mental health.

Healing as a Community

It is of primary importance to understand that the battle of depression or any psychological crisis is very much real as any other physical wound. Empathy is about listening to the person and making her/him feel loved and wanted. It is about making them come out of the shackles of darkness and helping them to come to terms with the many traumas and fears of living. It is about building a society of unconditional positive regard and acceptance. The sooner we all as a global community understand this, the better it will be in building a world where every mental issue is dealt with grace and dignity.

The right therapeutic help from a licensed counselor or a therapist is the only way forward in this regard.

Seeking therapeutic help is not a mark of shame or a sign of disgrace. It’s perfectly normal to have breakdowns while passing through the many crossroads of life. With every problem in life, there are numerous ways out of it.

And most importantly we all need to be aware of falling victim to toxic positivity prevailing in our times. Living comprises of both blues and black, and rise and shine. The fact that we all have woken up to the day and just lived life without achieving anything is an accomplishment in itself. Moreover, what’s more important is to be there for one and another and listening to each other and looking up from the screen and giving an empathic ear to the loved one.

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