Stop brushing mental health issues under the carpet
It is said about pigeons that when they see the cat, despite using their wings to fly away, they close their eyes and assume that the cat does not exist. They stay in that folly until they are killed by the cat. I think it’s not about pigeons only, we also behave similarly. We face the problems existing physically, we visit a doctor when our body feels sick, we go to shopping mart when we are out of grocery, we go to fuel stations to refill our vehicles and go to banks and ATMs to withdraw money, we do work to earn for our physical needs and expensed, But….
We exactly behave like pigeons when it comes to mental well-being. Just because we can’t see the cat never means it’s never going to kill us and still, we continue to brush our mental issues under the carpet and assuring ourselves cat is not here until this cat kills us. For us, this cat is depression, this cat is anxiety, and this cat is hopelessness and various other forms of mental illness as we name them.
Why does this even happen that people start ignoring their mental health issues? It’s mainly because of the taboos that exist in our society, the stigmas, the fear of social exclusiveness, the judgmental attitudes one faces and labels that people put on them when someone decides to open.
An already broken soul starts finding it easier to stay quiet and die inside rather than speaking up about their issues and let masses get busy in judging him. It is so unfortunate to live in a society where we are not ready to understand mental health issues are a real problem and not something fantasized. Neither we want to acknowledge that every flu is not caused by COVID-19, every headache is not due to a brain tumor and so definitely every person facing depression is not insane until we make him by other judgmental attitudes and wrong choice of words.
At every single level, we see people facing traumas; many of those never share their situations with anyone. Let’s understand clearly that anyone could be a victim, be it a 10-year-old student shy enough to speak in class and being scolded for it, 14 years old who is not able to cope with the stress coming from school, a 16-year old girl who is bullied for her color and weight, a 17-year teenage girl old being harassed at school and not able to share it because her family will count it as her mistake or will not support her, an 18-year old guy ready to enter university but not given the choice to choose his subjects, a 22-year old fresh graduate who is not able to get a job that matches the expectations of his family, a person trying to handle heartbreak or someone an abusive toxic marriage, someone not being able to have children or not being able to earn enough for his/ her family, anyone could be a victim. Mental health issues do not discriminate ever, they affect people boundaries of gender, race, color, creed or nation.
This is the time we need to normalize discussions about mental health. We need to break stereotypes so one could be comfortable in mentioning that they are facing mental issues, anxiety, depression, burn out like the way we indicate that we are having flu or even cancer. Our nervous system is a part of our body and like any part of our body, our brain can get sick too. Just like our legs get tired after excessive walking, our mind can get exhausted too after excessive pressure of handling rough situations. If we don’t stigmatize anyone for getting tired after excessive work-out, why we do label ourselves or other as lunatic, insane, crazy, oversensitive when they are not performing well mentally. We don’t care until something unforgivable happens.
The key for damage control at our own end is accepting the fact that we are having problems and we need support, the most important thing we need is to SPEAK UP. Speak up against abuse before our limits for tolerance ends, about traumas, heartbreak, things damaging your peace, speak up before we give up our ability to think, process and speak.
We must stop looking down upon our problems and start taking them seriously when they are damaging our mental health. Ever wonder what it should be for others then? Telling them that they are being dramatic or over-thinker, or they have the habit of crying or complaining, or they are good for nothing? Definitely, a big NO. All we need to do is to practice active listening, patience and empathy. Instead of telling ourselves and others to tolerate or handle disturbing, harsh or abusive behaviors and bear with the pressures until life inside us ends; or we lose more of our loved ones when they deliberately end their lives as they are tired of ignoring their issues just to match the pace of society.
We never know our five minutes spent patiently with someone could save them from any wrong decision. For a person losing hope, we never know one simple sentence could give him courage to fight or deprive them of left-over hope. My friend told me about a friend of a friend who wrote on his suicide note, if someone would ask me why I am killing myself, I will not commit suicide. It was enough for me to understand the importance of active listening.
Life is never a bed of roses, Let’s try being a little bit sensitive and responsible with our words and actions.
Author: Rtr. Sajida Khalid
Rotaract Club of Karachi Innovators