Mental Health Awareness Week: Psychologist Sahana Tantry on stigma, lack of awareness, therapies and more

Sahana Tantry, Psychologist & Outreach Associate, Mpower The Centre - Bengaluru one why there is a stigma associated with mental health and more.
Health & Fitness,Mental Health Awareness Week 2020 Mental Health Awareness Week: Psychologist Sahana Tantry on stigma, lack of awareness, therapies and more
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Many people, to date are not clearly aware of mental health and how important it is just like physical well-being. People have to know that mental health is more than just the absence of mind-related disorders and disabilities. As per WHO, “Mental health is a state of well-being in which an individual realises his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.” Mental health issues are widely prevalent across the world and stats are the proof of it. As per WHO's factsheets, Around 1 in 5 of the world's children and adolescents have a mental disorder. Depression is one of the leading causes of disability, affecting 264 million people. This is not all, people who have severe mental disorders die 10 to 20 years earlier than the general population. 

These startling facts prove that many of us are reeling under several health issues. And poor diagnosis, limited resources and stigma associated with it are only compounding the issue. In order to stress more on how important mental wellness and happiness and to destigmatise it, several organisations are trying their best to mobilize people. As we observe Mental Health Awareness Week, we asked Sahana Tantry, Psychologist & Outreach Associate, Mpower The Centre - Bengaluru to clear more doubts.

The main challenge is the stigma:

When asked about the stigma and how people still fear to use the words mental health and mental illness to which she said, "There is a lot of stigma and stereotypes associated with mental illness. Having beliefs that people with mental illnesses are “insane” or “aggressive” or “violent” or “weird” and cannot be handled by us will keep people in fear. One has to understand that this fear only arises due to a lack of awareness".

"When we do not know about something, it is bound to create fear in us, because our mind then begins to believe in whatever information is available, which leads to the stereotypes."

"Mental illness should be given the same level of importance and understanding, like that of a physical illness. Learning about what people go through while they are sad or anxious or any other illness will help improving sensitivity towards such issues. And people will begin to feel more supportive of such issues rather than undermining it.

"Mental health professionals all over the world, continue to fight for its importance and to spread awareness about it. As a mental health professional myself, I would urge people to read or talk to an expert about a particular problem, rather than jumping to conclusions about it."

About Therapies and medications:

When asked to explain more about the therapies and medicines for mental health, she answered, "Treatment for various mental illnesses began with the medical model, where people believed that something that had to be wrong with the body or the brain alone to cause to mental illness. However, with time, this approach began to change."

She added, "As a mental health professional, I believe that the ideal situation for treating a mental illness would be when both medications and psychotherapy goes hand in hand to treat a person with certain problems. Which works best for certain disorders will be left to the discretion of the professional. When the severity of symptoms in certain mental illnesses increases, medications might be required to control the symptoms and sometimes it also helps the person to become more receptive to psychotherapy."

She concluded by saying, "Psychotherapy on the other hand, helps a person equip themselves with better coping skills so that when they face any stressful situation in the future, they will not be overwhelmed by it. Furthermore, it also helps the person to understand oneself and what led to these problems in the first place which will help them feel more in control of the situation."

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