The topic of mental health has been rapidly gaining popularity in India and has made its way into the homes of regular citizens.
One of the most positive impacts of this came directly after actor Deepika Padukone opened up about her mental health struggles. Her earnest statement and continued support ensured that people paid attention. Finally, the stigma surrounding mental health struggles began to lessen, and conversations about the same became commonplace.
We talk to Counseling Psychologist Labdhi Shah about the various ways we can further develop and sensitize the public to this topic. Labdhi is a Consulting Therapist at the Live Love Laugh Foundation in Mumbai, founded by Deepika Padukone, and a Counseling Psychologist at Mind Route. A believer in holistic approaches, she incorporates the methodologies of yoga, Ayurveda, and Naturopathy into her therapy.
Q: It is said that Millennials and Gen-Z are more open and honest about their mental health compared to older generations. Have you found this to be true?
A: Millennials, as we see it, are the generation that faces more mental pressure because of extreme competition to get into schools. Therefore, due to this obsession with exams to get jobs in any field, they feel stressed, depressed, and anxious. The competition now is like never before.
Having said that, they are also more exposed to the world and the way things work outside India. This contributes to their already high stress levels but also makes them more open and willing to ask for help. As they have been introduced to the concept of mental health and therapy from a young age, these topics don’t hold the stigma that their parents or grandparents may have.
They understand the importance of mental health, the intricate ways in which it is related to our physical health, and the impact it has on our daily lives and relationships.
Q: Do you believe Indian workplaces would benefit from sensitization training? If yes, what should be some of the main points covered?
A: Sensitization training is a form of training where the goal is to make people more aware that being kind to each other is only going to help others perform better and, therefore, benefit the team in the long run. So, it allows people and companies to look at the bigger picture.
The main points to be covered would be:
- To use gentle words when speaking to one another
- Practice active listening
- Have weekly sessions where everybody present would come together to share their experiences and give their suggestions no matter how big or small their position is, therefore, leading to a change in the dynamics of this group interaction
- Regardless of how strongly one feels about any decision made, a different perspective must be considered, thus helping everyone to learn how to accept different viewpoints and be more accommodating towards one another
Q: What would you say to people who may be open to the idea of therapy but are apprehensive about medication?
A: In my practice, I would suggest that only a clinical case should take medication as it is a balance, like the seesaw, to their healing.
It is important to explain to them, through an example, of how important it is for you to give water and sunlight as nourishment to grow a seed into a plant. Taking medication along with talk therapy is like providing that necessary nourishment for you to grow.
Q: As a supporter of Naturopathy and holistic approaches, how would you recommend changing the clinical conversation surrounding mental health so we can open more people to the idea?
A: In my experience of a decade as a psychologist, I have come across many people who, if suggested to take medication, would take less than a fraction of a second to say NO.
This is when I decided to find alternative sciences that could help people with clinical issues without depending on the medication.
Yes, there is a taboo attached. However, as I learned and understood different sciences such as Ayurveda, naturopathy, yoga, and the importance of a balanced diet, I also understood the significance of different treatments, or ways of living, in helping someone in the nourishment of their mental health.
Q: How can we combat loneliness in a society that prides itself on the family unit but emphasizes tradition often at the expense of personal freedom?
A: It is very important to know that a person living in a joint family could also be lonely. One needs to understand that loneliness doesn’t necessarily end with the number of people around you. It is also important to be understood by the people around you.
Fortunately, due to technological advancements, we are now able to connect with like-minded people on different platforms, chat, and have group meetings from the comfort of our home. This can be extremely helpful for many people as they get to connect with people who can help them battle this feeling of loneliness and even help them fight the reason for feeling this way.
Q: A major issue with Indian society is that it is rife with abuse – mental, emotional, verbal, financial, psychological, physical, and sexual. How do you propose we go about creating awareness for the different types of abuse?
A: Sadly, in our society, if someone attends AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) meetings, support groups, or therapy, they face ridicule and teasing from their loved ones. At times, they are not even able to share this experience with other people.
What people must do, not just for themselves but for others, is come out and talk about the more meaningful things that make a difference in their lives, and share the things that help them combat these experiences. This builds courage and allows the person listening to share not just their experiences, but also the troubles that could be going on around them with their friends and family.
This is the best way to give back to society. So, not only will it act as a feel-good factor, but also allow you to contribute meaningfully towards making the world a better place to live in.
Q: Any final words for anyone struggling with their mental health?
A: If you are struggling, please seek help from a professional therapist. Know that there are people trained with years of experience to help you in your situation.
For the ones who cannot seek help, try to explore various ways of de-stressing and keeping your emotions in check. Have a routine, like a time-table you had in school, and include daily exercise and a proper sleep schedule. Consume a healthy diet and remember to take breaks.