The Cost of lack of equality in Mental Health
Another Mental Health day passed by recently and we made sure that we post pictures and quotes etc talking about the importance of mental health. We took an effort to make sure to let the world know that we care about mental health and show that it's an important cause. The day is gone, we are back to doing the usual where we continue to do what we have to and are supposed to carry on with our daily lives. Yet, unconsciously waiting for the next year to post again on social media on the importance of mental health on Mental Health day.
Recently, someone I know told me that it’s all one’s mind, one is not emotionally well because he is not thinking positively, if we can put that in different terms, it is almost equal to saying , one is not rich because he is not thinking about getting money. Where do these beliefs come from? Where did we learn to believe that we need to be happy all the time? What made us believe that a stomach ache should be treated and the pain felt in the mind should be suppressed?
Where did this sense of inequality come from? Inequality of not having the right to feel and experience what one feels and goes through, especially with regard to our own mental health. Can we pinpoint and say what the actual reason is? Or is it something that has become too complex to understand? Whatever may be the reason one can assure that we all have a hand in the same. If equality is taught, inequality is no different. The question here remains, where do we go from here? To answer that question we need to understand where exactly we are now. Let’s have a look at the 5 ways we are paying dearly due to the inequality in mental health in our society.
- Mental Health Epidemic: After the rise in Covid cases in India, the honourable President of India declared that India is going through a Mental health epidemic. What do we mean by that? The cases of depression, anxiety and suicide rates have increased drastically all across the country. People are finding it extremely difficult to manage their mental health with the ongoing rise in cases and the fear of what might happen. Many, unaware of what to do, slip into depression and even to the extent of attempting suicide. The work from home situation made many feel isolated and lonelier than ever before. Before the pandemic it was predicted by WHO that roughly 20% of the population will suffer from some form of mental illness in India. After the pandemic, it is no surprise that the number has increased drastically.
There is a 70% gap between prevalence of mental illnesses and patients who get treatment. This can sum up the whole aspect of inequality in mental health that we face today. It is said that the ratio required between the psychologist and the population is 1:8000, i.e. 1 psychologist for 8000 people in a locality, however the current rate is 1:2,00,000, which speaks even more on the inequality.
- The burden of Suppression: One of the basic psychological needs of a human being is to express themselves, their creativity, passion along with their pain and sufferings of the mind. Unfortunately, due to the inequality, one is unable to fulfill this basic need for themselves. They are forced to suppress their emotions, feelings and sentiments due to the fear of being judged and misunderstood. However, it comes with a cost.
Our mind has a habit to think about what we don’t want to think about and make the intensity of the emotions suppressed even more. So much so that it comes out in uglier ways. Sigmund Freud once said, “the unexpressed emotions do not die, they are buried alive and will come forth in uglier ways”. This is the cost of inequality we are forced to pay. In about 60% of my clients, I could see these emotions coming out in uglier ways and affecting their mental wellbeing. For some, in their relationships, some in their personal lives, losing sleep, unable to focus, lack of interest in things, feeling isolated and much more.
- The Fall of Economy: In a recent survey it is estimated that the two common mental health disorders, anxiety and depression, cost the global economy US $ 1 trillion each year. It was estimated that mental health concerns cost the world economy $ 2-5 trillion per year, the cost which is projected to rise upto $ 6 trillion by 2030. Yet, it’s difficult for us to take a leave because we are not keeping emotionally well. It is even harder to ask for the same; the cost of inequality. productivity is another price we pay because we choose to hide and suppress our emotions and pretend to be okay. We lose out on time, skills and effectiveness all in the name of inequality.
- Self Identity: The basic question of our lives, Who are we? Who can we become?. This question of utmost importance again pays the price due to the fact that we are not allowed to be who we are while dealing with a mental illness. The comfort in being oneself and accepting the difficulties of the mind becomes a subject of pain when one has to hide everything that they feel and put up a smiling face on the outside. A quote from the movie joker can be rightly apt here, as it says, ‘the hardest part of having a mental illness is having to pretend that it does not exist’. We are made to understand that one is incomplete without the ‘’cure’ to mental illness’, failing to see how we are losing ourselves in the name of the so-called cure. The pressure to be okay all the time makes one lose touch with their core identity of self.
- Unused Potential: Following the lines mentioned above, by focusing just on the idea of getting better, we are losing out on what we can be now. The potential, strengths and capabilities are ignored and sidelined as the spotlight is on the aspect that the individual has a mental illness. Mental illness does not have to get in the way or predict who we can or who we cannot be. Of course, the concern should be addressed, however not dictate our future. It is said that Abraham Lincoln dealt with depression, Michaelangelo dealt with mental illness and Beethoven had bipolar disorder. All these individuals taught us a lesson that our potential is not limited by what we go through, but instead by how we perceive them.
Let the writers write, painters paint, musicians make music and let no inequality in mental health get in the way of who we truly can be. As we said before, inequality is taught, let’s take the responsibility to teach ourselves that mental health is important and we need to preserve this freedom of equality for all.