Let’s Talk About Mental Health

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Mental health has become the talk of the day especially on social media platforms, right after the demise of the actor Sushant Singh Rajput. Time and again, many from the Northeast too have sulked into depression or are being haunted by the trauma invoked by discrimination. Unfortunately, many end this trauma by ending their lives.

In an interview with Chirasmrita Devi, Clinical Psychologist & Psychotherapist Suniti Barua talks about the issue of mental health as well as the identity crisis faced by the people of NE.

Q How important is mental health in the current scenario?

Mental health is extremely important. The present scenario affects all and can’t be escaped as it is happening to everyone. The whole world is taking new steps thus resilience is the key ingredient. Mental health is a must priority for all to manage through the current times. It has been observed that stress and anxiety among people have increased. Also, individuals with pre-existing issues cannot access the support they need thus people’s mental health (individual or family) has become imperative.

Q How can one deal with the Covid-induced depression or trauma?

Depression and Trauma are separate from each other but do affect one another. Depression is a mood/emotion. It can manifest as low mood for a situation or maybe a phase of low mood due to an event or as Depression (disorder) – continuous occurring low mood for over weeks with no difference in mood (minimum 2 weeks continuous). Trauma is an event that causes a multitude of emotions, pain, shock and psychological disturbance. Covid-19 Pandemic can be a traumatic even for a lot of people and thus causing Depression. This can be managed by –

1. Engage in Natural mood uplifting activities – Workout, Dance/movement, Hobbies etc.

2. Focus on some self-care time – take 15 minutes to spend some stress-free time with self, take 10 minutes daily to meditate, prepare a meal of something you enjoy, take a relaxing shower and focus on letting go of all negative thoughts from the body.

3. Write the thoughts that make you feel low, vent out everything and then tear or burn the pages. This helps release.

4. Do something creative! Colouring everyday keeps the blues away. Draw your issue every day, this helps you let it out and slowly see the changes in your daily art healing you.

Q Racial discrimination is one of biggest issues affecting the people of northeast. How to deal with the trauma related to it?

Trauma with discrimination brings pain, insult, tussle with identity, rejection and grief. This can be very intense as the victims may become hypervigilant to any words or body language. These becomes triggers and one might experience recall of incidents and even nightmares. Some ways to deal with it.

1. Being heard is important. Connect with people and share your story.

2. Learn to be aware of the affects of this trauma (fatigue, anxiety, hypersensitivity, difficulty to sleep) and reach out for professional help to support this.

3. Make a list of the triggers (people, places, situations etc.) and use meditation to focus on releasing the triggers from body and mind. Visualize them dissolving. It may be difficult at first, but regular practise can help you slowly nullify the triggers with time.

Q Can you tell us something on how not be affected by this discrimination?

It’s natural to be affected. It is a negative scenario and feeling negative is going to happen. But we can try to manage this by

1. Remind yourself that you are affected and to accept it.

2. Don’t let Ego come in.

3. Be assertive in taking your rightful stand.

4. Get support

5. Remind yourself that we can’t control others actions or opinions.

6. Get legal help in matters if Harassment.

Q It is seen that somewhere people from Northeast themselves see self as an ‘outsider’. They consider themselves more as from Northeast than Indian. How to change this mind-set?

Belongingness can stem from generations, family traditions and stories. The stories one hears, passed down from generations of others treating us as outsiders continue to be a part of the identity story of many. It is not so easy to remember. Many factors contribute to this, including the overall awareness of facts, sensitivity on part of everyone in accepting all individuals living in India as Indians.

Changing the mind set of an entire community is not possible. We must work on this collectively. But each individual can make small changes in accepting self and others – not just through thoughts but also with action. Kindness is our key to this lock; we must start with being kind to self. We must understand that Self-love is a big factor in dealing with this. Many of us are fighting others battles and understanding this, letting go of maters that don’t resolve anything but actually cause more issues. With time and changes, harmony will be achieved.

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