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Treat it like another disease

Jiah Khan’s death proves that we must take mental health issues seriously

india Updated: Jun 11, 2013 03:04 IST
Khimi Thapa

A beautiful actress, a promising career and then a suicide — Bollywood actress Jiah Khan’s story had all required ingredients needed to send the media into an overdrive after her death on June 3.

While some celebrities speculated that it was a failed love affair that forced her to take her life, others said it was her failing career that pushed her to the edge.

Unfortunately, such discussions missed the main point: ignoring depression can prove to be fatal, as Khan’s death showed. For the record, a 2011 World Health Organization report said India is the world’s most depressed nation.

Depression, anxiety and panic attacks are all mild forms of mental illnesses that many see as ‘minor issues’ which can be solved by watching a movie or going out friends.

Going to a ‘shrink’ is a still taboo here as no one wants others to think that they are ‘mad/maniac/lunatic’ or their loved ones are ‘going cuckoo/going nuts’.

As society, we don’t attach much seriousness to depression even though it is the second highest cause of death among youth.

The trigger for depressive behaviour can be anything: failure in examination, a failed relationship, a breakdown in professional career, low self-worth etc, but it is the stigma that compels people to suffer in silence and their families to either watch their loved ones deteriorate rather than seeking help.

Often depression is perceived as an individual’s weakness and failure to cope with a challenging situation. But then do we perceive other diseases by the same standard?

Early signals of mental illness often go undetected. With rising pressure on students, which in some cases lead to substance abuse, addiction, suicides, a lot has been said about making psychological counselling compulsory in private and government schools.

But even teachers are often reluctant to suggest to parents that their wards need counselling. Many multinational companies offer counselling to employees but it takes a lot for a sufferer to access it, but when s/he does, it is usually not out of choice.

It’s high time, we realise that bottling up emotions can lead to a breakdown and going to a psychiatrist is not a western fad. Experts suggest that counselling can help mild to moderate cases.

But sadly, the trip to a psychiatrist’s office is full of potholes of prejudice that makes the journey difficult.