It’s ok not to be ok
Come mid-week of December, social media was rife with rife with the reports of a 17-year-old missing boy. He came from an educated, upper-middle-class background, living in an upscale neighborhood. Having children in the same age group added to the tension of all the parents in our school groups, we all waited with trepidation for the news of his well-being. Great efforts were put in to trace his mobile, his last whereabouts traced via the CCTV cameras. Every parent I knew was praying for his safe return, but is nature always so kind? The search ended with the body being found in a nearby hill station. Questions arose like, “What prompted the boy to end his life at such a tender age “, “Was he pushed over by someone?”. Many questions arose but the answers none.
With the drug scene rampant in the city, the rumor mills started working in an overdrive. Many stories of his addiction, substance abuse started doing the rounds. Others came up with theories of how he was disturbed and depressed due to his incapability to cope up with study curriculum, he was also enrolled in the special education cell of a reputed SoBo (SouthBombayy)college. For me, I would love to go back in time, give him a jadoo ki jhappi (a tight hug), and stop him from taking his own life.
What triggers these teens to take their lives? An inability to deal with emotional disturbances or lack of a solid support system that leads to the complete breakdown of a human being. In the recently concluded Times Lit Fest, on a chilly Sunday morning saw a packed auditorium, it was a talk moderated by Neerja Birla, wife of noted industrialist Kumar Mangalam Birla, veteran actor Anupam Kher and Sudarshan Ramakrishna, MD of Goldman Sachs put forward their take on mental wellness.
Anupam Kher recounted the days when he was supposed to emote and deliver happy scenes. He was actually so unhappy on the inside, his battles with facial paralysis being the trigger. He recounted how he developed his own coping mechanism which he later corrected after consulting a psychotherapist.
Neerja revealed that she had postnatal depression after the birth of her kids and still has, “good days and down days”. Her tryst with mental wellness prompted her to start her endeavor, “Mpower”.
Ramakrishna said he didn’t let his mental health issues stop him. “I can’t help that I have an anxiety problem but that won’t stop me from being the MD of Goldman Sachs. You need to learn to succeed in spite of it. You can succeed despite all of it“.
Symptoms and Stimuli
Wouldn’t it be great if you would be able to recognize the things which trigger (stimuli) an episode of anxiety, depression, and avoid all those things which would make us feel in the dumps? Symptoms may include mood changes, an alteration in personality, personal habits often accompanied by social withdrawal. Scientific research and study say mental illnesses may be caused by a reaction to environmental stresses, genetic factors, biochemical imbalances, or a combination of these.
It’s great to recognize these things, but what can you do? Clearly, if we could avoid all of the things that made us feel worse, that would be ideal.
Sudarshan Ramakrishna added that anxiety is when your body reacts to outward stimuli with a flight and fight response. His body tends to go into protective mode under natural stimuli. Everyone’s symptoms and stimuli are different and so are their coping systems.
Hope and Help
The most disturbing aspect is that the people surrounding us – our friends and families are unable to cope with the fact that their loved ones are suffering from a mental illness. The person who is enduring the disease feels vulnerable as he or she is judged all the time. We often end up worrying what other people will think due to the stigma attached to mental health issues. Often time is spent in contemplating, “What went wrong? “, “Why me?”. These physically and emotionally trying times can be overcome with acceptance, understanding and finally treatment.
Sudarshan Ramakrishna revealed what worked for him,”The first thing is to normalize it in conversation. It should be normal to sit across friends and say I am depressed today”. He also said here the internet helped him too. He went through blogs, sites and read how Justin Timberlake and David Beckham spoke about their anxiety and OCD problems.
It needs great awareness and self-control to stay steady and calm in an adverse situation and a grit determination not to succumb to any negative emotion like fear, guilt, anger, hatred and stay calm.Sometimes the days are tough but you have to cling on to life with determination and not “let go”. The rewards for hanging on to life are definitely going to be sweet.
So every time you read into someone’s status as “Surrounded by people yet so lonely “, recognize a difference in the behavioral pattern, all you have to do is extend a supporting hand, envelop them in a bear hug and say,
“It’s ok not to be ok “.