ISLAMABAD: Mental illness is all around us, whether we know it or not. People of all genders and ages can be diagnosed with a mental illness, and it could affect anyone — your family member, neighbour, or even you. We live in a society that makes it difficult to live and thrive with a mental illness because of the stigma around it. People often dismiss it by saying ‘get over it’ or ‘it is just a phase,’ even though people’s lives are crumbling and they are too afraid to ask for help. People suffer in silence every day because of the way we judge mental illness. We do not judge people for having diabetes, asthma, or cancer, and would never dismiss these illnesses. Then why do we do that to people with depression, bipolar disorder or anxiety?
As a society, we need to change the way we perceive and talk about mental illness. Education is the foundation of any change, and we must start with schools to help people understand what mental illness is. We need to teach people that it can be caused from a chemical imbalance in the brain, traumas or major life events. It is not necessarily just a rough patch that one goes through.
Teaching people how to recognise and encourage someone who may be struggling to seek help and support is very important. It helps in making others feel like they are not alone and that it is not uncommon for individuals to struggle with their mental health. No one should ever feel like they are wrong for taking medications or going for therapy to improve their mental state. Although you cannot see mental illness on the outside, it does not mean it does not exist. An individual’s mental health is just as important as his or her physical health and small changes will eventually change the way mental illness is seen in our society.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 5th, 2019.