10 September is the World Suicide Prevention Day! Awareness is the Prevention Dose.
Mental illnesses are ailments that affect emotion, thought, and behavior of an individual. Distress or difficulty in coping with routine tasks at work or home, or in any social situations are symptoms of mental illness.
According to World Health Organization (WHO), [risk of] suicide is greatly increased by mental illness; 90 percent of all suicide victims suffer from a mental health disorder, frequently depression, stress or drug misuse.
Treatment for psychological diseases can lower the risks of suicide. But, usually people don’t talk about or share their challenges related to mental sufferings with others, due to social pressures and stigmas, which ultimately overloads them and leads into suicidal ideation or attempts.
In traditional societies, mental problem is perceived as a taboo. People feel ashamed of sharing about mental illnesses, like depression or anxiety. The need to break this taboo and to convince the individuals and the society that there is no reason to be ashamed about mental illness because it is a sickness just like any other disease. In fact, mental illness is one of the biggest public health challenges faced by contemporary world.
Gilgit is the main city of Gilgit-Baltistan and it is an advanced region, comparatively speaking. But when it comes to mental illness people are not open enough to accept psychological illness as medical emergency. Instead, they label the issue in a disgraceful and sarcastic sense as madness (‘Pagal’ in Urdu language).
This is because the ‘concept of honor’ is taken extremely serious in our society and, I would say, this concept is over-rated in our culture also. For instance, a man is thought to be the toughest and incredibly strong. Therefore, talking about stress and depression is considered as shameful act for men, especially, because reaks of weakness, and expression of weakness goes against the macho mentality.
Thereofre, in order to comply with the traditional societal and cultural order, people don’t talk about their mental sufferings. And, unfortunately, in some cases this leads to depression, desperation, hopelessnes and anxiety which also leads to suicidal ideation and attempts.
Similarly, women are labelled as vulnerable if they cannot achieve what they desired for, due to societal, cultural hindrance and other factors. They are expected to be vulnerbale and not much attention is paid to their agnoies. Instead, their lives are overregulated in the name of culture, tradition and religion, which puts even more burden on them, leading to mental exhaustion and social suffocation. Furthermore, both genders may suffer mental illness due to relationships with reference to marriage and societal interference in success or failures of the individual.
Some other variables, like employment status, poverty, gender, ethnicity and also come into play and leave a trail of chaos behind them. A perfect storm of mental health generates when all theses factors intersect, leading to thoughts of harming self or the rest. Family characteristics, such as family history of self-harm, prevalence of violence in family, parental separation, lack of parental support and drug abuse may also induce mental illness.
Some steps we can take to reduce mental illness are,
- Awareness campaigns and c responsibility of acceptance are significant.
- Contacting and seeking advice and treatment from health care providers
- Positive connections with individuals, family, community and social institutions
- Extra-curricular activities like sports events and adventurous activities are very helpful to reduce mental illnesses like depression, stress and anxiety, for all ages.
The contributor has a Masters in Anthropology from the International Islamic University.