-Authored by Ms. Pragya Upadhyay, Ahmedabad, Gujarat.
Mental Health is all about an individual’s emotional well-being and psychological state. It is as important as one’s physical health. Over a time, a person’s mental health fluctuates because of many surrounding factors such as self-esteem, feeling loved, confidence, family breakup or loss, difficult behaviour, abuse, etc. which can impact an individual psychologically. A person’s physical health can also contribute a lot to his/her mental health and vice versa. For example, factors like birth, trauma, brain injury or drug abuse can psychologically impact the individual. Sexual health is also linked to mental health.
As per the National Mental Health Survey (NMHS) (2015-16) in India, one in 20 people (5.25%) over 18 years of age have ever suffered (at least once in their lifetime) from depression amounting to a total of over 45 million persons with depression in 2015. In India, there are still many stereotypes related to mental disorders and hence it remains difficult for people undergoing depression to seek the support they require. Besides, most of the times, the individuals undergoing depression do not recognise it themselves and refrain from sharing it with others owing to being labelled or judged.
When it comes to sexuality or sexual health, the stereotype continues. People from the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex (LGBTQI) community are discriminated against when it comes to sexual expression. This can severely impact them. The inability to “come out of the closet” becomes even more difficult for them because of the judgement society puts them through. The trauma they undergo is sometimes as severe as being beaten up just because they dared to accept their sexual orientation or preference. This has resulted in depression many a times, leading to suicidal thoughts and tendencies among many people from the LGBTQI community.
Inability to “perform well” in a sexual act or not being able to meet one’s partner’s expectations or satisfy them, also impacts one’s mental health. Sexual health issues such as Premature Ejaculation, Pain during sex, Erectile Dysfunction, etc. for a prolonged period do leave an impact in the minds of partners, disturbing their peace of mind many a times. Besides, lack of sexual contact can also affect people severely.
Education plays an important role for the public’s attitude towards seeking counselling or medication. Many believe that seeking support from a mental health professional is a sign of ‘weakness’ or a waste of time and money. Secondly, in a country with a population of 1.3 billion, the number of qualified counsellors and psychiatrists is very few.
It is important that people are education on the signs and symptoms of mental disorders or ill-health while normalising the idea of seeking support for themselves and their loved ones. There needs to be more open discussions to enable an environment conducive to seeking help. Moreover, in order to eliminate the stigma, a proper awareness programme is the suggested key. If our primary health centres and general practitioners start offering mental health care services, we can hope that it gradually gets integrated in the overall public health care system.