Understanding Mental Health Issues

I went through a bout with mild depression and anxiety for about 2 years. In those 2 years, I was still a really sociable and extroverted person and every person who hung out with me during that period would be very surprised if I was to tell them what I was going through despite the constant “life of the party” persona I exhibited. They would actually tell you that I was more cheerful then than I am nowadays.

When I was going through that period, I really liked going out, a lot, and the reason for this was, the drinking and company kept the demons at bay. When I hung out with people, for once, I was not consumed by my toxic thoughts, and this is what I feel makes it hard for parents ,friends and loved ones of people with mental issues, to understand those issues that their loved ones are going through before it is too late. People, most of the time, judge your mental wellbeing by what you exhibit, meaning, when you are constantly jolly and cheerful, they assume you are doing well mentally, if you are overly quiet and easily irritable, they just assume you are moody etc. Simply put, mental wellness is judged by what one exhibits physically .Sometimes these small character traits like moodiness, hyper activeness ,irritability are a byproduct of something much more severe and this is not realized until it’s too late because of this habit of assuming the state of one’s mental health from personality traits instead of digging beyond the surface. This lack of paying attention and really trying to understand these deep rooted issues our loved ones face is a problem because that means if a loved one is going through a tough time, it becomes hard to help them because sometimes, you do not know that they are going through something much more severe than a mood swing or irritability because they are not exhibiting it physically.

 When I was going through that spell, I did not want to talk about what I was going through but I also wanted to talk about what I was going through. Confusing right? Let me try to explain. I was ready to pour out my heart to anyone who could have actually approached me and asked me, “are you ok?” or “how are you doing?”, but what I was not ready to do was go to a friend and pour my heart out to them. The reason I did not want to do that was because I did not know what kind of reaction I was going to get from them. When someone comes to you and asks you how you are doing, it gives you surety that they are concerned about your wellbeing and that if you share your problems with them they are going to genuinely listen and try to help, because they showed care about your wellbeing in the first place. However, if a person never took the initiative to ask you how you are doing, you find it difficult to pour out your heart to them because you do not know how they are going to react. What if it’s too much for them to handle and they brush me off? What if they laugh at me? What if they give me the cold shoulder? These are the kind of question you ask yourself and ending up deciding against speaking up.

I’m not saying that my friends were bad people because I went through hell and none of them noticed. After all, they all have their own lives to live and they could not possibly have smelled that something was wrong with me. However as a society, it is high time we normalized a culture of constantly asking our loved ones how they are doing and if they are ok. Depression and other mental issues are on the rife nowadays. Just in 2018 alone, there has been close to a dozen celebrities who succumbed to suicide and drug overdoses as a result of mental issues. If people who we assume have it all that one can ever wish for in life, money, fame and all the material possessions that we can only dream of, can succumb to feelings of nothingness, what about those who do not have those material possessions to find solace in? How many of them can succumb to mental issues? Their numbers are even too scary to think about.

In the social media age we are in, it is easy for one to succumb to feelings of nothingness because everywhere you go, be it Twitter, Facebook, Instagram etc, you are constantly reminded about how your peers are making it in life whilst your life is seemingly stagnant. For someone who is going through a lot, these feelings of nothingness from social media coupled with the feelings of nothingness from their mental issues, becomes a potentially lethal combination. The “hey look ,my life is better than yours” aspect exhibited by social media users makes it even harder for people to come forward and admit that they are going through a lot because they think they are the only ones going through that. This means that most people then choose to not talk about what they are going through because they feel like they are inferior to most people who seem to be having the time of their lives.

Convenient and useful as it is, from experience, I believe that social media is contributing significantly to the rising number of mental health cases in our society nowadays. It has created this unhealthy obsession of comparing our lives with other people’s. This obsession makes people always aim to seem like they are doing better than they are actually doing so that they can match up their peer’s lives. People choose to mask their problems just so they can get on social media and feed their egos with the constant likes and retweets they get. Social media has become like a drug, offering temporary relief to one’s problems by the form of ego stroking metrics instead of helping people face their problems head on. This creates a vicious cycle of people who are having issues feel worse because their peers seem to be doing well but those peers are actually not doing well but only want to appear to be doing well just so they can match their peers too.

Social media has contributed positively to our lives that I admit, but is it time for those at the top to realize that it is also contributing negatively to users’ lives. It is time to go back to the drawing board and consider changing the metrics which create this “hey look ,my life is better than yours” aspect and that ,I believe, will help significantly in cutting down numbers of mental health issues in today’s society.

Mental issues are hard to deal with, both for those who are directly affected and their loved ones. They are difficult for the former because one finds it hard to ask for help and because of the constant reminders of nothingness fuelled by social media. They are also difficult for the latter because it hard to help a friend going through issues when you don’t even know that they are going through issues. However, what we can do, like I already mentioned, is to create an environment where people will find it easy to communicate their issues with their loved ones. Let’s normalize a culture of constantly checking up on our friends, no matter how in a good space they seem to be. It is better to be that nagging friend who is always asking your buddies how they are doing than to be the friend who delivers a “but he was always so happy when I saw him” eulogy at their funeral after they choose to self-harm because they succumbed to their issues.