Mental health has emerged to be one of the most discussed issues, when it comes to well-being, in recent times. However, the discussion still doesn’t pay enough attention to younger people, among whom the prevalence of issues such as anxeity and depression are alarmingly high. The National Mental Health Survey 2015-16 shows that 9.8 million teenagers in the age group 13-17 years suffer from depression and other mental health ailments and are “in need of active intervention”. According to a research by the Lancet, suicide deaths have been listed as first among all causes of death in women between 15-29 years in 26 of the 31 states, and women in the age group of 15-39 years in 24 states in the nation.
So, what causes such issues in the young women of today?
Heightened expectations, demands from all fronts, the inability to question, gender stereotypes, no means for dialogue or discussion surrounding health, and the lack of access to qualified and friendly therapists or counsellors are some of the few causes. But there might be many more reasons that deter young girls from seeking help or even addressing the fact that they have a mental health problem. To understand their perspective, SheThePeople.TV spoke to some teenagers who are dealing with mental health issues.
Understanding of mental health
The current situation of our country towards the understanding of depression is dreadful. Neither do people want to understand what depression is, nor they want to know what a person goes through while he or she is suffering from it. – Simran
Prapti, a 19-year-old from Kolkata, has depression. However, the state of mental health in India means that she has not even been able to tell this to her parents because they won’t understand. She says, “I’ve been coping by visiting the counsellor on my college campus, which is a huge blessing as her services are free of cost. Therapy has helped me a lot.”
A student from Indraprastha College for Women, Simran, was first diagnosed with depression in 2017. “The current situation of our country towards the understanding of depression is dreadful. Neither do people want to understand what depression is, nor they want to know what a person goes through while he or she is suffering from it. Moreover, many people are unaware of the fact that they are going through it,” she states.
Akanksha, a student from Jesus and Mary college, recalls her diagnosis back in May 2018, when she was 19 years old. Despite having serious mental health issues which got diagnosed, she chose to leave counselling midway. She says, “I was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD) and anxiety (avoidant) personality disorder (AVPD) last year. I was put on antipsychotics and antidepressants for the same.” She says that it is impossible for people who have not experienced it ever to understand it, and that is why she left therapy ultimately.
What triggered it
One of the biggest struggles when it comes to discussing mental health is the “why” behind that issue. While one shouldn’t have to justify dealing with any mental illness, the struggle is only worse for young people, as their problems are often trivialised by those older than them. What have you got to deal with in your life, that you got depression, is what youngsters are told. But mental health issues are much more complicated than “struggles” that are usually associated with adulting.
“What triggered my condition were recurring psychotic episodes of auditory hallucinations where I would listen to my own voice from outside my body, speaking mean and bad things to me. Sometimes, even directing me to do certain things that I did not want to do, but did anyway,” says Akanksha.
Simran says that even today when she tries to find out the reason behind her mental illness, she is unable to figure out what exactly was that trigger point. “But to mention one of the incidents that happened which made me feel awful was during an exam where I had a severe panic attack that made me shiver and feel numb at the same time.”
Ways of dealing with it
Just like an issue may present itself in a different way in every person, the way they deal with it can also be radically different.
When this started, I didn’t understand what it was. I wanted help. So I started reading articles and looking for mental health organisations on the internet, and this continued for at least two months before I ended up with an email counsellor from an organisation in Bangalore.- Akanksha
“I try to keep myself productive as that keeps away feelings of unworthiness. I also try to follow a routine, but I still slip into old habits because recovery is hardly linear. Social media is a curse because it sucks me in, and I end up spending hours on it, without doing any work, which results in a horrible feeling. Social media is easy dopamine, which, when depressed, is not good for me,” says Prapti.
Meanwhile, Akanksha says that social media has helped her. “The role of social media in this has been huge. When this started, I didn’t understand what it was. I wanted help. So I started reading articles and looking for mental health organisations on the internet, and this continued for at least two months before I ended up with an email counsellor from an organisation in Bangalore. I would write emails to her and share all my problems. Tell her what I was going through and how much it was affecting my life. She would counter question me, and I would answer. She was the one who encouraged me to go and see a professional about the hallucinations I had been encountering.”
In conclusion, it seems that the way you use social media plays a vital role in dealing with your mental health issues. Getting sucked into the ‘likes’ and traps of influencers representing the best parts of their life surely creates self-esteem issues. While finding a creative outlet on the same medium and researching about your condition through networks can help.
The current turmoil in the country
“The current events in India have triggered my feelings of not being able to do enough. However, I’ve realised that joining protests and marches is a perfect way to deal with stress. When you’re out there, you know you’re contributing and you’re with hundreds and thousands of others just like you. It’s affirming, and that has helped me combat with the stress of everything that is wrong with the country,” says Prapti.
Message to girls dealing with mental health
Simran says, “I have been doing well now, and I always quote that as I have overcome my depression, no situation or any difficulty in future can hold me back at any point. That’s how strong it has made me today! And a small message for whoever is going through it: You are a beautiful person, don’t let anything or anyone make you feel less worthy or incongruous. Stay strong and trust yourself!”
“It was quite a tough period for me to survive, but as I speak of this today, it makes me feel extremely strong and happy to accept the fact that it brought me closer to my inner self. And understanding of how the environment around us keeps changing according to our actions which we need to adapt to,” she adds.
Image: NewYork Times
Saumya Rastogi is an intern with SheThePeople.TV