Playing Our Role in Mental Health Awareness
We’re constantly warned about our weak health care system and how we will have to see our loved ones suffer and struggle to breathe. Recently, corona virus has swept into our lives like a bad spell. All everyone ever talks about is the virus and how the number of cases in our country are growing on a daily basis. On top of that the recent news of a confirmed case of re-infection in Pakistan has proved that covid-19 has another more lethal strain that has more severe symptoms.
All of this negative news adds up to problems at home. While stressing out about getting physically effected by this disease. Wwe end up suffering mentally.
Mental health is a topic considered a taboo in our society and anyone seeing a therapist is termed ‘crazy’. Issues like anxiety, panic attacks and depression are not considered medical issues by our society. People dealing with these problems are often told to get over it. This is the reason behind the recent and shocking increase in student suicides, who mentioned in their letters that they had taken the drastic step due to being unable to cope with family pressure of doing well. It is very important that we increase mental health awareness in our country and create a positive space for those suffering to come forward and ask for help.
Let us take two opposing scenarios and then weigh their conclusions to reach a consensus. Let’s take the example of Anaya, a young student suffering from social anxiety and panic attacks. She avoids social gatherings and her parents term her behavior as introverted and shy. And even take a little pride in how their daughter is not one of those social, party-crazed teenagers. Anaya has a panic attack during a test but is dismissed by the teacher as an episode of asthma and her classmates term her as dramatic.
Tired of her confusing state of mind and constant backlash from school, she approaches her parents for help but only get the usual “you’re feeling too much” and “keep yourself busy in studies and you won’t even notice”. What Anaya’s family and friends couldn’t see was that her not being able to understand her situation was putting her in a worse state and now her social anxiety has reached a point where she can’t attend small family gatherings without expecting a panic attack after.
Now let’s look at the situation in reverse: After Anaya’s first panic attack in class, her teacher instantly recognizes the symptoms. And talks to Anaya to confirm that the issue is related to mental health. The teacher then contacts Anaya’s parents and they gently question her. So they can see the full picture of what their daughter is going through.
Preferably, they set an appointment with the mental health professional, where it’s just the parents. Once they have a more clear understanding of Anaya’s problem, they prepare her for her sessions.
It is vital to let the patient know that their condition does not mean they’re crazy. Because recognizing the problem is a big step towards solving it.
If you suspect that your loved one might be going through depression, anxiety, panic disorder, PTSD etc. Help them. Talk to them about their condition and ask them further about how they feel. Talk to a mental health professional if you can’t easily pinpoint the problem. Once you know what the problem is try to communicate that to your friend/family member. In a way that they know they have your support.
Please don’t treat mental health problems any differently from physical illnesses. It is a very sensitive issue and lack of attention from your side. It can really create irreparable changes in someone’s life.
Written by: Shermeen Tanveer