The noose made headlines when Bollywood sensation Sushant Singh Rajput used it to end his life. The noose sure makes headlines when it kills, but what about the times it only gets tighter? There are seldom front page stories voicing how talks of depression need to be the talk of the hour. Instagram stories, Facebook posts and the twitterati flare up when a National sensation commits suicide. But as a society, we are blissfully blind to the attention that mental health deserves.
The lockdown has pitched us an unfair deal and we are at a brink of an emotional crisis. In these times, they say a conversation helps you through depression. Though it's time to introspect how many are truly available when a conversation is all you need? Counselling psychologist, Malvika Fernandes who is currently associated with Project Mumbai, helps us decipher the nitty-grittys of the mind game that well, sometimes just screws us over.
Social isolation worsens suicidal tendencies
The pandemic is certainly playing its role as a contagion, but not just one that has far-reaching physical effects, but psychological ones too. In an article by New York Times, a Harvard professor, Matthew Nock calls this a natural experiment that psychiatrists will have to deal with in the coming times. He says “There’s not only an increase in anxiety, but the more important piece is social isolation.” He added, “We’ve never had anything like this — and we know social isolation is related to suicide.”
Malvika says mental health is not just the responsibility of an individual. “Like all other aspects of humans, metal health is an interplay of a wide number of forces around us. We are thus part of a system. I am aware of those who would vent and deal with their mental concerns in their own ways. However, the pandemic hit and now social distancing is the new norm. We psychologists continue to stress on the fact that in these times emotional connections should be kept alive.”
If you’ve ever wondered how depression works, Malvika breaks it down for you. She says depression is sadness in its most intense form. “Nothing interests you. You are enveloped in feelings of helplessness and a ‘no one gets me’ vibe. Not just those who suffer from clinical depression, but everyone has in fact gone through these phases at some point in their lives. While some are privileged to have a support system to reach out to, some aren’t.
How do you reach out in times of isolation?
“Emotional connect is key. Instead of scrolling through those WhatsApp messages, and social media posts, call them! Check in on them once in a while.”
Malvika says we need to become okay with being vulnerable. “When someone hits you up with a whatsup text, we often respond with an ‘I’m fine’, even though that may not be the case. Our standard response to ‘how are things going?’ is ‘Yea, we’re hanging in there.’ But are we really? We need to get okay with saying we are not okay.”
A study conducted in the United States suggested that overuse of social media exacerbates feelings of loneliness. The more time spent online, the less one has for real-world interactions, thus isolating a person. While social media comes with promises of connecting us, stop and think if that’s really the case. While our phones may be brimming with messages, that might make us feel wanted, are we ready to ask someone for the mental help we need? Malvika says, “Instead of asking those who are going through a lonely patch to reach out, the onus of reaching out to them should be on us. If you’re the one that’s going through a difficult period, introspection and self-awareness can sometimes work wonders.”
Lost your job? Depression is understandable
“We often receive calls on our helplines during these times. The pandemic has caused job losses across demographics and a lay-off can be a trigger to depression. In these times, companies are faced with a responsibility of securing their employees’ emotional well-being. Zoom calls are happening every hour, but maybe a call once in a while to check on the employee would go a long way. Let’s not stigmatize. The last thing someone who loses their job needs, is the sympathy. If you can’t be of help to them, don’t worsen it.”
Media: A trigger?
As reports of Sushant Singh Rajput were all over the news, suicide stories spilled across pages. How then does one who is going through depression and anxiety, avoid being triggered by this?
“Speak to a therapist about it, as they are trained to speak about mental health in a more humane manner. If you start noticing red flags, when it comes to a friend or family member, reach out on behalf of them. Encourage them to read material that is about the society being inclusive, in contrast to the suicide news. Help is a helpline away.”