This is not really the sort of buoyantly positive article that you would read in the first few months of a year. Because it is about an individual’s struggle with mental illness for over two decades. So I leave the decision to continue reading this at your discretion. Life is not just about rosy pinks, lush greens and happy yellows. It’s also about the greys, browns and blacks. And that’s what I am here to discuss.
I am here to talk about the millions of us who can’t seem to see the proverbial glass half full most of the times. The problem is society, pop culture, Bollywood, Instagram filters and corporate life don’t always understand people that don’t see the glass full. They are written off, given labels and are often at the receiving end of condescending behaviour. All this, while battling a life altering, life threatening INVISIBLE disease.
I was diagnosed with clinical depression and anxiety at 13. Throughout my journey, what has baffled me is the tremendous discomfort around discussing mental illness openly in our country with many living in complete denial of its existence. My favourite incident to quote is when one of my managers, on being told that I have depression, said to me, “Oh, c’mon! Go get a drink; you will be fine!”
I could not understand how a seasoned leader in a reputed organisation could be so proudly apathetic towards such a serious issue only because it did not directly impact him. People suffering from one or more forms of mental illness (13% of the world’s population) find their struggles amplified by colleagues and leaders at work that don’t even attempt to understand the disease.
COVID-19 has turned the spotlight on mental health because, perhaps for the first time, an entire of universe of people is feeling the kind of emotions that some of us battle with every day of our existence. I have zero interest in sounding preachy. But unless we look at mental illness as normally as physical ailments and actively work towards reducing the shame and stigma attached to it, and ensure key stakeholders educate themselves on the illness, the needle will not move on dialogues around mental illness.
(The author is a mental health advocate and is associated with the Seattle-based The Stability Network)