Why Is Kindness To Ourselves Stigmatised?

It’s time we pay attention to our mental health.

"You cannot seek help. You will hate yourself for thinking you needed counselling over a boy."

"While I don't think everyone needs therapy, I definitely think everyone can benefit from it."

I followed the first piece of advice when I was 18, naïve, and heartbroken. I subscribe to the second statement as a considerably mature, self-aware and sorted 23-year-old. My experience at university in the US and transition to India after has really made me think about how different parts of the world view mental health. At university, I was fortunate that there was free walk-in therapy/counselling/someone anonymous to listen available at all times on campus. I benefitted tremendously from pouring out my trials and tribulations once a week to someone who did not tell me what to do, just listened. Therapy is wonderful—it left me stronger every week. It helped me get my act together and hold on to deep, and at the time, troubled relationships.

Your mind has served you all of these years—you owe it more care, respect, and nurture. Do not "suck it up" when it comes to mental health...

Then I graduated and moved to India. In India, seeking help for your mind is a privilege. If you belong to a certain socio-economic status, you are afforded the awareness of general anxiety disorder, anger management, depression, attachment issues and so on. Even then, if you suspect something is not right, seeking out a therapist can seem like a daunting task. A common hindrance at times is "I don't want to be judged." In a society where there are rigid moral concerns surrounding physical relationships, sexual orientation, alcohol, drugs, seeking help becomes all the more impossible. This is a hurdle a lot of us do get past. But then I have heard a lot of people say, "I am not sure if I trust the therapy here." This possibly stems from the fact that there is a vacuum when it comes to the healthy-mind dialogue. Another one is of course the expenses involved. Since therapy is something associated with the rich, cheap or free therapy (if available) is looked at with suspicion, perhaps with good reason. Finally, a crippling hurdle is one we construct ourselves. We tell ourselves, "There are so many problems surrounding us—I should just deal with it."

Mental health affects everything you do. When something does not seem right, it is probably because it really is not. Your mind has served you all of these years—you owe it more care, respect, and nurture. Do not "suck it up" when it comes to mental health, because things build up and may cause irreparable damage to our lives and to those around us. First and foremost, we owe it to ourselves to take care of us. Our mind factors into that equation. We fail here and we are more likely to fail others—because farces tend to collapse.

The silence in the community and the voices in our heads telling us to "keep it together" are a problem.

On paper, your life may have always sounded brilliant—an invincible J-shaped curve. The only way to ensure you do not lose happiness along the way is to take your issues seriously. I am writing this for two reasons. One, I hope to push people who are telling themselves to "suck it up" every single day to stop doing that. Seek help and optimise the resources available. The experience of continuing with business as usual and ignoring your mental health will weigh you down. It will dampen your resilience when/if life throws you another curveball. Second, there must be a way to be more empathetic of our own minds and that of others as a community. Yes, India has a billion pressing concerns. But addressing mental health does not in any way minimise other issues we face. It is not a zero sum-game. The more I talk to people, the more I realise that nearly everyone in my age bracket has their own battles. They could all benefit tremendously from therapy. The silence in the community and the voices in our heads telling us to "keep it together" are a problem. It is a scary problem because it is not tangible and cannot be seen. Every day is an opportunity to improve your minds. One way to do it is to learn and imbibe new experiences. But that is half the story, the other way is engaging with the mind, identifying where it is suffering and seeking help when it is in pain. We are taught kindness to others throughout our schooling, why, is then kindness to ourselves stigmatised?

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