Let's Talk About It: Mental Health Issues
What mental health needs are more sunlight, more candour, and more unashamed conversation.
It's perhaps time! The issue of mental health has for long been a taboo, but people are suffering. Just because everyone is not suffering doesn't mean it doesn't exist. You can ignore it as much as you want, but it will return to you in some form or the other. Mental health, depression, addiction, related diagnosis and treatment have for long been a matter which the society has alienated. With increasing cases of depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues, Team MM decided to get some of the frequently asked questions answered by the experts in the field.
Team MM caught up with Dr PK Nanda, the psychiatrist and Dr Ekta Sanghi, the Counselor under the Institute Counseling Services. Here are the answers that we got from both of them:
Basics About Mental Health
MM: What is the difference between psychiatrists and counsellors?
Dr P K Nanda (Psychiatrist): A counsellor is a psychologist, but he cannot prescribe medicines. On the other hand, a Psychiatrist knows both psychology and medicine. Counselling is also a part of a psychiatrist's skills.
Dr Ekta Sanghi (Psychologist): A psychologist is someone involved in therapy, whereas a psychiatrist prescribes medicines. A psychologist cannot prescribe medications.
MM: How can depression be identified?
Dr P K Nanda (Psychiatrist): There are many factors in depression. First of all, they lose all interest, and everything seems blank. Secondly, even if they are on the campus, they will feel lonely and would see no charm in studies or life. Physically, they will feel weak, lazy, and eventually, they will not eat and sleep well. When both the psychological and physical symptoms are there, the worst part of depression may come, i.e., suicidal thoughts. Before the situation reaches that stage, one's friends must realize and take necessary steps to prevent further damage.
MM: What is the difference between depression and anxiety?
Dr P K Nanda (Psychiatrist): Anxiety is related to nervousness. Whenever such a person faces a challenging situation, they will be worried, even for tiny things. They will also become very complex and start thinking that they can't complete any task because it's challenging. They will also not be able to concentrate. Physically, they may suffer from high Blood pressure, sweating, restlessness, uneasiness. Life is full of problems; those who face it in a better way are the ones who become successful.
MM: How does one take care of his mental health?
Dr P K Nanda (Psychiatrist): If someone realizes that one has a mental illness, he should search for the cause. Anxiety arises from fear; the cause of fear is something that makes me depressed or anxious. He needs to remove that cause. Suppose, I'm worried because of an upcoming exam, the anxiousness comes from the feeling of being unprepared. If one is prepared, confidence ensures that the person will not be anxious. So work on self-confidence, so that you're worthy in your own eyes. Also, get engaged in doing good things. Read good books, do some exercise, Medicines should be the last resort.
Dr Ekta Sanghi (Psychologist): Firstly, you need to maintain that positivity not just for the society but also for your well being. Have a healthy lifestyle, a proper diet, hydrate yourself, take adequate sleep for 8 hours a day, and exercise daily. As young adults, one might not be accustomed to this competitive environment as the cream of the country gathers here. So when you face a setback, it is sometimes challenging to revive. They tend to get carried away, and stamina comes down. Thus maintaining a healthy lifestyle is essential and very basic. There should be a motto of how you plan your day.
MM: If one sees that his friend is suffering from symptoms of mental illness and not attending classes, what should be his course of action?
Dr P K Nanda (Psychiatrist): First of all, try to find out if he is having symptoms of depression or does he have some problem in his life, whether it is because of relationship issues or family issues. Friends can help a lot in most of these cases by ensuring that the person does not take any wrong decision or inculcate any bad habit. In worse cases, they should refer the person for professional help.
Dr Ekta Sanghi (Psychologist): Encourage your friend to take help. Help them with consulting a psychiatrist or a psychologist or even the doctors at the health centre. It's also important to monitor that person from self-harm or suicidal tendencies.
Effect on Academics
MM: How important is mental health for academic-related activities?
Dr P K Nanda (Psychiatrist): It is vital. Academic activity is a mental activity. If one is not mentally healthy and has a flickering mind, he cannot concentrate. In that case, even if he is intelligent, he may not achieve academic success. Psychology is just a way of thinking. If one is not thinking correctly, then obviously he cannot do well in academic-related activities.
Dr Ekta Sanghi (Psychologist): Mental health is vital, considering stability in academics and career. If someone is depressed or unhealthy, he/she is not in good shape in terms of mental health. He/she then won't be able to cope with that workplace stress, which leads to that instability. Mental health is crucial for functioning in all aspects of life. A coping mechanism is different across age groups. In teenagers, it's challenging considering physiological changes. When it comes to people in NIT, everyone comes from a diverse background. Students getting into hostel life for the first time, have to deal with insurmountable stress. So, they need proper advice.
MM: How to deal with extreme failure in academics or life as a whole?
Dr P K Nanda (Psychiatrist): It is the responsibility of the teachers. There is always a cause; if someone is not doing well, there would be a reason. If the reason is related to mental health, then obviously, counselling will help. If not, then teachers have the most vital role in this scenario.
Dr Ekta Sanghi (Psychologist): Success and failure are two sides of a coin. Sometimes the effort we make to achieve something, for instance, we expect an 80 in an exam and end up with a 70 or 60, that might be a failure, but we should consider moving on as in trying to overturn the defeat into success the next time. Learn from it, use that as a stepping stone. When you are stuck on your failure, you can't move ahead.
MM: What can be done to ensure that the students can open up about their mental illness?
Dr P K Nanda (Psychiatrist): Firstly, they should ask themselves why their performance is deprecating. You are not small children, anyone who reads in this institute is mature enough to understand how good/ bad he is performing and if he feels that he is not able to concentrate and there is no charm in life, mental health might be the issue. Once one knows that he might be having this problem, then why not seek advice? The advice can be from the counsellor, psychiatrist, or even any of his friends that he can trust. It is not a bad thing to come to a psychiatrist. Sometimes people think that only mad people go to a psychiatrist, but that notion is entirely baseless.
Dr Ekta Sanghi (Psychologist): Consider mental health like any other health and don't shy away from talking about it. We have more significant than life personalities (Deepika Padukone) opening about their mental health and depression.
Convince a person/friend to take help. Help comes to those who seek it. Someone who is shying away from seeking help because of social stigma needs to realize the more important purpose for which they are here to realizes his/her target (getting their degree). There's nothing wrong with seeking help. Once a situation reaches an extreme, it becomes difficult for revival. So, things have to be dealt with at a budding stage. If a professional is not available, seek help from your student council. (mentors and the institute counselling service)
MM: How dangerous is an addiction to smoking/ drinking, especially for people of our age?
Dr P K Nanda (Psychiatrist): Smoking or drinking alcohol doesn't solve your problem; instead, it increases them. Temporarily some alcohol or weed might give you pleasure, but in the long run, it is the worst solution that you can think of. Everybody must stay away from such activities because academics is a mental activity. It requires the proper functioning of the brain; these chemicals harm your brain activity. No chemical can solve your real-life problems. Medicines can control diseases, but real-life issues have to be faced. The biggest problem with such an addiction is that the dosage keeps on increasing with time, and after a point, it becomes life-threatening.
MM: For students at our age, there exists peer pressure. Many people start drinking because there exists a notion that drinking is cool. How should one deal with this peer pressure?
Dr P K Nanda (Psychiatrist): People will try to influence you. One must stop going to such places and observe if he gets restless, if so then he was addicted. Once this self-realization comes, one must try to channelize himself into positive activities and stay away from people who had influenced him. These people might tell you that they are teaching you how to enjoy life, but this is the worst way of enjoying life. Instead, one must go to clubs, gym, or any other physical or positive activity.
Dr Ekta Sanghi (Psychologist): Belief in yourself. Know where to draw the line. Do not think you are inferior or things like 'not cool enough to fit.' That is something that intensifies peer pressure. You then start doing things that others want you to do rather than what you want to do. Realize the importance of your alma mater and the destiny you have come with. It is okay to indulge once in a while to try changes and something new, but you haven't come here to become addicts! So know to draw that line. Read about things. Everyone is tech-savvy here. Use social media to your advantage and not disadvantage. Insecurities lead you into that trap of peer pressure. Some peer pressure is good, but uncertainties and consistent insecurities add up to peer pressure, and you get swayed by opinions. Talk to your friends and parents about things.
MM: How dangerous is an addiction to social media and the digital world?
Dr P K Nanda (Psychiatrist): It is very dangerous; now, it is scientifically proven that changes in the brain are almost the same because of digital addiction as it is for alcohol or any other addiction. Nowadays, even small kids are suffering. It not only kills your time, but it also takes you away from reality. Life is not a dream, the truth is always painful, and we have to face it even if it is not comfortable. Mobile addiction leads to various diseases that are categorized under lifestyle diseases.
Dr Ekta Sanghi (Psychologist): It is as dangerous as alcoholism, even WHO recognizes this fact. So, it's essential for all of you to detox for at least one day. Social media cravings make you only look into the lifestyle of others. That implants anxiety in us that we are inadequate. One hour is optimal for a day to engage in social media and gadgets. Try giving it a rest. Switch off your phones when you study and do not waste time on social media. Do not let social media control you.
MM: How to solve the problem of addiction to mobile phones/ digital media?
Dr P K Nanda (Psychiatrist): The responsibility is of the parents. They must ensure that they do not inculcate such habits in children from the very beginning. Secondly, the person himself should realize. It would be difficult to leave it suddenly, but one must try to substitute this pleasure with sports, games, or any other productive activity in the real world.
MM: In dealing with such addictions, is self- realization more effective then nudges from the institute?
Dr P K Nanda (Psychiatrist): A combination of both should be there. Rules cannot change the way a person thinks. Already there is a restriction on smoking and drinking, but people still find ways to do that because they yet haven't realized the harm it is causing them. I have seen people's lives being destroyed because of such addictions.
MM: As a society, what steps do we need to take to deal with mental health effectively?
Dr P K Nanda (Psychiatrist): Society has a critical role to play. It must ensure that young children are not getting excess stress. Most of the time, addiction is a result of excessive pressure. We must try to understand each other's problems and encourage them to face these problems efficiently. Also, elders must ensure that they don't smoke or drink in front of young children because it internalizes the habit in these children who go on to follow the same practices in the future. Thirdly, society must ensure that children are career conscious so that they don't take any adverse decision, which may end up spoiling their career. Finally, parents must not torture their children; love and affection are much more effective means than punishments.
MM: How to deal with an inferiority complex (financial, academic, physical, or any other)?
Dr P K Nanda (Psychiatrist): There should be a positive attitude to compete with such people. Inferiority complex will come, but that should become your driving force to try and reach the level that you are not today. Instead of fighting with him, one must try to learn the good traits that made that person achieve the level at which he is today. No one is perfect; learning from others is a positive attitude that ensures one gets better in life. One's family might be poor, but he can be a good singer, writer, or sportsperson. If one works on himself, everything else gets compensates in life.
MM: Finally, what message would you like to give to our readers?
Dr P K Nanda (Psychiatrist): Try to be helpful to each other. If you understand your friend's problems or even just listen to him, it will be beneficial for your friend. Don't put him down; try to create an environment where people can talk about there issues without any fear. Half of depression or anxiety can be solved if one has a person who patiently listens to him. Medicine and professional counselling should be the last resort. Life is very good, you have come to this institute with a great history of prominent alumni. Everybody must strive to do something good through their life.
Dr Ekta Sanghi (Psychologist): Success and failure are part and parcel of life. We are all taught to achieve success but never deal with failure! If a child falls while walking, he will learn to get up again. But falling as an adult instils fear. What one needs to realize then is the fact that failures are just as essential to make who you are and what you are eventually.
Team MM thanks Dr P K Nanda and Dr Ekta Sanghi for the interview and hopes that the taboo surrounding mental health vanishes and people help each other to ensure that everyone's lives get better.