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Death Is Not The Answer

Let us change the perception from ‘mad people see Psychiatrists’ to ‘Smart people see Psychiatrists’ and work towards reducing suicides because death is not the answer

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October 3rd to 10th is celebrated as the mental health week world over. The theme this year revolves around the young adult and the changing world. Adolescence is a time for fun and frolic, for growth and adventure so then why are we worrying about mental health? 

Unfortunately this is also the time for strife and most of the mental health disorders start by the age of 14. Suicide is the second cause of death in the age group 15 to 29, second only to accidents. 

The rate of Suicide has doubled in India in the last five years; 16 teenagers kill themselves every day. Triggers seem to range from broken romantic relationships, stress related to studies and examinations, difficulties in dealing with one’s sexuality, body image disturbances, inability to manage screen time and a complex relationship with social media. These all contribute to adding confusion to the young mind. 

Aggressive behaviour, sleep and appetite irregularities, a lack of communication with family members, the inability to concentrate on studies or work, maybe the presenting symptoms the result of which is that many resort to alcohol and cannabis to reduce anxiety temporarily. This unfortunately worsens the underlying problems. 

A lack of understanding and denial about mental health issues delay treatment and the young adult becomes a victim of depression. A further ‘lack of compliance’ and the ‘stigma’ of visiting a mental health professional leads to further distress. ‘Am I mad to visit a Psychiatrist? I’m not a psycho’ are the statements commonly heard. 

In India families rather visit faith healers, astrologers, ‘babas’ and it is not uncommon to hear about financial or sexual abuse in such situations. The entire family suffers many a times in silence because it is shameful to talk about ‘mental health issues ‘and one fine day it is all over. The young adult decides to end it all in a fit of rage or often in a drunken state. 

Every suicide adds ‘shame’ to the family, people discuss in hushed tones even at the funeral and instead of sympathy the family is blamed and further ostracized. 

The family and friends go through years of guilt, self-doubt worrying and wondering what could they have done to prevent this ‘untimely’ death. It is estimated that every suicide leaves at least six people depressed. 

Bipolar Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Schizophrenia are other common mental health disorders. Millions of rupees are spent on cancer research, but not much is done to prevent these ‘untimely’ and unnecessary deaths. 

It is time we all come together and work towards preventing suicide as one third of all suicides and 40 per cent of all women suicides in the world happen in our country. 

We need to create awareness and sensitise the common man by talking about mental health issues, by sharing positive stories and encourage seeking help from mental health professionals. 

Schools and colleges need to incorporate life skills to help the youth cope with new challenges. Doctors in all fields need ‘mental health classes ‘to identify the hints dropped by people suffering from suffering patients. 

According to WHO, one in four people visiting a doctor is suffering from depression. 

Doctors also need to be less hesitant and more comfortable referring clients to mental health professionals to enable early detection and treatment. 

As a lay person, we need to look around for our friends, co-workers and family and be extremely vigilant for signs and symptoms of mental illness and seek immediate treatment. 

Let us change the perception from ‘mad people see Psychiatrists’ to ‘Smart people see Psychiatrists’ and work towards reducing suicides because death is not the answer.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

Dr. Anjali Chhabria

The author is a Senior Psychiatrist

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