Trigger warning: This article contains mention of anxiety, suicide, depression and OCD.
Social media has never felt like the appropriate platform to openly talk about my struggles with mental health.
It may provide you with a space to talk about problems that are being trivialised by people around you, but there’s only so much you can expect from the internet. The worst part is when people who have no experience nor the required knowledge about the complexities of mental health give out unsolicited opinions.
We have all seen ill-informed phrases like “suicide is never the option” or “find someone to talk to do” doing the rounds of late. Drawing from my own experiences, I would like to explain why such phrases might be unwelcome to people actually facing mental health issues.
Suicidal thoughts are as real as you and me. It might sound outrageous, unnecessary or dramatic to a ‘healthy’ person, but mental illness is no stage play. You cannot script or direct it according to your liking. Talking to someone might help a few people, but it can be challenging when there is no one patient enough to understand you. At other times, words might just refuse to leave your mouth – distancing you from the world even more. You might not feel comfortable sharing your problems with your loved ones to avoid putting additional burden on them. Sometimes, you might not be able to put your feelings into words.
“Talking to someone”, let alone a stranger, is therefore not as easy as it is made to sound.
Seeking professional help is an option, but it has its own share of problems. Affordability is the biggest concern in our country. Even if that isn’t the issue, psychological treatments might not work for every person in a consistent way (just like certain physical treatments/ medicines work wonders for some and are ineffective for others).
Moreover, living with constant anxiety is not easy and sinking into whirlpools of sadness for no apparent reason is exhausting – and it’s not about seeking attention or gaining sympathy, as is the general belief.
Rather than making ignorant statements that belittle someone’s trauma, try to understand where an affected person’s actions might be coming from. Do not disregard a person’s own experience and journey. Refrain from using terms like ‘freak’ or ‘attention-seeker’ while referring to someone who does not fit into your illusory definitions of a ‘normal’ person. Stop using psychological terms (e.g. crazy, mental, bipolar, etc.) at the drop of a hat.
In the last two years of school, my psychology teacher once said that the first step to de-stigmatise mental illness is to stop using psychological and psychiatric terms colloquially. Before using phrases like “I am so depressed” or “this is giving me OCD [obsessive-compulsive disorder]” in your daily conversations, pause and reflect on the choice of your words. Fleeting sadness, no matter how intense, does not equate to depression. Your mere disapproval of how things are on a particular occasion, does not mean you have OCD.
The intricacies of the human mind cannot be understood in a day – I too am not an expert. Nevertheless, we can always strive to do better. Social media is a great platform to discuss relevant issues, and one must continue doing so. However, presenting your thoughts in a way that is unmindful and lacks empathy can do more harm than good.
Let’s keep learning and unlearning together. Be sensitive and have patience. Stand by your dear ones through their struggles. Love them even if they forget to love themselves and definitely do not refute or invalidate their trauma.
That would be a start.
Basundhara Jana is an undergraduate student of English Literature at Indraprastha College for Women, Delhi University
Featured image credit: Milad B. Fakurian/Unsplash