SHREYA BANSAL | 25 OCTOBER, 2021
1 in 7 young Indians feel depressed
“Am I overreacting?” Kajal thinks every time she wants to seek counselling for her mental health. Even after trying for a few years now, the 23 year old has not been unable to take that first step toward seeking help. She thinks she is being “dramatic.” “There are periods when I am just mad at the world,” she said. “But I am not close to anyone so I can’t talk about it.”
Only 41 per cent of young people in India said that it is good to seek support for mental health problems, according to the survey, compared to an average of 83 per cent for 21 countries.
We have been constantly told that it is not normal to take help for mental health, according to Kajal. “I feel as if I am not normal if I take therapy,” she said. Kajal is also afraid that her parents will be humiliated if she takes therapy.
Kajal, when she takes therapy, wants to talk about sexual abuse that happened to her as a child. “I would also like to talk about social anxiety and my issues with my family, specifically with my mom in therapy,” she said.
According to a UNICEF survey, 14 percent of people in India, aged between 15 years to 24 years, or one in seven individuals, reported feeling depressed or had little interest in engaging in activities. The global median was one in five people who experienced similar feelings. The proportion varied from one to three in Cameroon to one in ten in Japan and Ethiopia.
22 year old Navya has been stuck at home since she moved out of college after her graduation. She recently told her mother about wanting to take help for her mental health. “My mother’s reaction was ‘why do you want to share your family problems with a stranger,” said Navya. “My mother and I have an agreement that we don’t talk about me taking therapy and my father till date doesn’t know that I have started it,” she said. Navya doesn’t want to hide this part of her life from her family. “If I am having an anxiety attack in my room, nobody would know that this is happening,” she said. “There is also so much guilt about keeping this from my parents,” she added.
Aditi, another 23 year old, doesn't want to tell her parents when she feels unsafe, when she is cat-called on the road, or when she feels she is unable to focus on her work because she doesn’t want to worry them. “I can’t even think about taking therapy before saving up money for it,” she said. “I can’t ask money from my parents because I can’t tell them I want to take therapy because I am not ready to tell them that I have issues,” she said.
There is a whole lot of information that is present about mental health outside of the professional domain. This information is more often than not valid, said clinical psychologist Medhavi Sood. According to her, people need to understand the difference between information given by an experienced professional and on social media. In addition to this false information there is a lot of stigma. “People think just talking to a counsellor would not help,” said Sood. “First the stigma needs to go from the parent’s mind before it can go from the kid’s mind,” she said.
The UNICEF report also mentions that a combination of genetics, experiences, economic and environmental factors from the earliest days, including parenting, experience at schools, experiences in relationships, abuse, discrimination, humanitarian crises and health emergencies can be the deciding factors towards a person's vulnerability to mental health issues. Loving caregivers, safer school environments, positive and encouraging peer to peer relationships can significantly reduce the risk of untoward mental conditions.