Most people think of their brain as a mere collection of tissue and a complex tangle of nerves. I like to think of it as a mansion. The mansion is not particularly fancy, to be honest, it is nowhere near fancy. It resembles the image that pops into your head when you think of a classic American mansion. If a stranger were to view it from the outside, nothing would seem out of place. Some people with a keen eye for detail would, however, spot the occasional weeds in the front lawn, which are poorly masked by a patch of daisies.
The house has too many floors to count, each floor littered with rooms of various sizes and colours. It seems to have a thick atmosphere of eerie silence with an occasional hum of a thought waiting to turn into an ear-piercing scream. Each room is either associated with a fear, insecurity or a memory. The doors to the insecurities lack a latch, so they tend to swing open with the tiniest shift in motion.
The walls are filled from floor to ceiling with portraits of people with no distinguishing features. They all look like someone I would pass on the street; their eyes follow me as I walk through the hallways. It’s not necessarily scary but it makes me want to check if my hair is alright or if I have something stuck in my teeth.
The basement has dark corners, this is where the monsters lurk, away from the light, deep down where no one can really see them but you can hear them scratching at the walls when you are on your own, when there is nothing in the house to distract you when you lay in complete silence after a day of chaos.
The piece of writing you just read was something I wrote when my parents told me that anxiety was a hoax, a thing made up by the privileged, I wrote it to help them see what it really felt like. The stigma surrounding mental health in India is colossal, a hurdle that will take multiple steps to cross. WHO estimates that about 7.5 percent Indians suffer from some mental disorder and predicts that by the end of 2020 roughly 20 percent of India will suffer from mental illnesses. According to the numbers, 56 million Indians suffer from depression and another 38 million Indians suffer from anxiety disorders. How many of these people do you think will receive the proper help? Is it too much to ask for mental health to be included in the educational system? Many have come forth with organizations and NGOs that help provide education on these issues, but they are usually turned down by schools as it is seen as a topic too radical to be discussed amongst kids. The educational system does not include any chapters that at least mention mental health.
Many Indians will go their whole lives never really learning about mental health. When shown the data on the growing prevalence of mental illnesses, especially among children and adolescents, the parents simply deny it. The suicide rate (per lakh population) increased from 10.4 in 2019 to 11.3 in 2021. Any measures are not combating the sharp incline in these rates. Suicide helplines are usually understaffed, leaving most people seeking help to be left in the dark. Most alternate helplines are owned by NGOs, while the government sets up a facade of caring.
At the end of the day, irrespective of what you take from this article, a difference in the way we educate students about their mental health needs to be made. We shouldn’t have to resort to writing about our anxiety as a hidden message or hope that it resolves by itself, unsure of how to get the help we need.