“WORLD MENTAL HEALTH DAY- The lessons from Corona”
BY Rita Aggarwal
 
Of the few positives that Covid -19 seems to have thrown up for the world at large, one of the major benefits is the fact that it has thrown the mental health concerns centre stage. Every person on this earth has suffered and is suffering mentally and psychologically if not physically. Physically ten percent of the world population has suffered the virus, but the mental impact has been extensive and intensive too. A decade ago, WHO had declared that a silent pandemic of ‘Depression’ is going on globally and will strike the world in a big way in 2020 when it will be known as the second leading cause of death after CVDs (heart diseases). Little did WHO know that Covid 19 will strike as a pandemic resulting in depression multiplying.
 
As a practicing Psychologist for more that 35 years, it gives me a sense of hope that the world will start taking mental health and mental illness as seriously as they take physical illness. As physical fitness takes priority and people get obsessed with physical health, we hope they will be equally concerned and obsessed about taking care of their mental health.
 
The huge stigma around mental health continues to dominate peoples mind- set for it is shrouded with myths and false belief systems. According to general public, mental health means ‘madness’ and hence visiting a psychologist equals to declaring yourself as ‘mad’. Hence people ‘suffer in silence’ and allow the distress to blow up into a disorder. We need to break the stigma and remove the myths surrounding the whole subject of mental health. If we take a range of 0 to 100, mental health covers the entire gamut of happiness, good mental health, normal mental health, slightly disturbed mental health, moderately stressed out mental health, illness to severe illness. As a psychologist, we deal with the entire range of mental health beginning from cultivating positivity and happiness to treatment and therapy of mental illness. In other words, there are two sides to the science of Psychology, one being of Positive Psychology leading to happiness and the other being treatment of mental disorders. The Mind is one single entity for every human being which if taken care of nicely leads to happiness and well being and if neglected can lead to disasters like suicides.
It is extremely painful to know that ‘teen suicides’ in India are highest in the world. We have an extremely high rates of suicide in the category of 15-30 years of age, which is supposed to be a productive age of the youth. As a country and as guardians, parents, and stakeholders in mental health we need to put our heads together to understand, comprehend, mobilise resources to tackle this sorry state of affairs. In a country like India, with ancient philosophies like the Vedanta and the Upanishads to guide us and illuminate our path to happiness and glory, where are we going wrong? Are we aping the developed countries, following wrong role models of development, losing our sense of balance and propriety, losing our roots and identity and falling sick as a result? We need to sit back, rethink and get back on track properly.
 
Covid-19 has perhaps given most of us a very good chance and enough time to ponder over all these issues and much more. It gave us time to introspect, to be at home instead of running out into the world many times senselessly; it has connected the family to each other willingly and unwillingly and forced people change their lifestyles and habits. We have seen wonderful results with many, who have understood the value of the balance between money- materialism and mental happiness. Most people have cut down their needs and their greed, stopped shopping, stopped eating junk food and in restaurants, stopped crowding the streets and market place and luxurious foreign travels. Many people may   about the forced Gandhian lifestyle but the wise have adapted. Many men have manifested their hidden talents and hobbies and taken to it with passion, such as cooking, baking, singing, painting, reading and philosophising. Women and children have also skilled themselves with Computer and electronics. They have built up their digital skills and communication skills. The On-line education system forced in radical changes.
 
I have been giving innumerable webinars and seminars on mental wellbeing, handling stress, building immunity, mental health, cultivating positivity and happiness, to various segments of the population including children and adults. The demand is still growing and I am happy devoting my time to a social psychological cause which is dear to my heart.
 
The Mind does not come with an operating manual (MOP) when the child is born. We also take our mind for granted while we focus ourselves on the body.  If we believe that our Mind is the CEO of our body and life, we need to understand its nature, its power, its workings. The fact is that the Mind is no less than a miracle, which can heal us on one hand and destroy us on the other hand. Everything that is man-made such as roads, buildings, highways, computers, rockets, technology, bombs and missiles are first created in the mind of an individual. The idea first gets germinated and later developed and manifested into reality. Of-course there are mysteries and miracles in Nature that man has not been able to copy nor recreate yet. He has not become God. Although as a species, we are neurologically the most advanced and hence superior, but psychologically and spiritually we are failing miserably and hence suffering. We should not become extinct as a species. We need to seriously observe and take lessons from MOTHER NATURE, for a change. It might teach us the always forgotten ETERNAL TRUTHS.     
 
David Attenborough (A Life On Our Planet- a documentary 2020) says “This is not about saving our planet, it is about saving ourselves. The truth is, with or without us the natural world will rebuild. In the 30 years since the evacuation of Chernobyl, the wild has reclaimed the space. Today, the forest has taken over the city. It is sanctuary for wild animals that is very rare elsewhere.  And powerful evidence, that however grave our, mistakes, nature will ultimately overcome them. The living world will endure; we human cannot presume the same”