Mental Health: The Act Of Kindness And Why It Matters
Each one of us can have a role to play in instilling faith and inspiring hope amongst the individuals we meet. Of course, seeking professional help for mental health is important, but to assume that it's only a doctor that can "fix" the problem could be inaccurate.
To think that kindness is optional is a fallacy, kindness is mandatory: Nidhi Dubey
The year 2020 has been an incredulous year, one that has wiped clean all definitions of 'normal', introduced us to socially distant interactions; made us believe that washing hands must replace shaking hands. When the pandemic struck and halted our lives, many of us - including me - thought that this was the worst that this year could bring. Little did I know, that that thought would become a recurring one every day. With the death tolls rising every day across the globe, every day felt like we've hit rock bottom. Not many moons ago, when on a Sunday news channels began reporting a death - it felt different, it felt personal and tell you what - it seemed like it had nothing to do with the pandemic.
A Bollywood actor's demise is not an anomaly this year; in the last month itself the industry has lost some of its stalwarts. Sushant Singh Rajput, a bright young actor, died by suicide - causing a whirlwind of discussions, controversies, petitions, and of course hashtags. 'Mental health matters' the go-to topic. While I am glad that mental health is being mainstreamed and insurance companies are being taken to task for not treating mental health like any other physical ailment, there is a deep sense of dissatisfaction and frustration. Is there something that could have been done to keep him from taking this step? Is there something that we could do right now, in this moment, to prevent this feeling from becoming all-consuming for those that are grappling with it? The answer has always been and will always be a resounding yes.
If we are willing to stop "othering" the issue, then it starts small. Each one of us can have a role to play in instilling faith and inspiring hope amongst the individuals we meet. Of course, seeking professional help for mental health is important, but to assume that it's only a doctor that can "fix" the problem could be inaccurate. Kindness begets kindness and while it may come across to some as if this trivializes a grave issue, the intent is to encourage people to take responsibility for their actions. If we knew our words and actions could save lives, would we not be more mindful?
Despite having greater channels of communication today than any other time in history, we have stopped listening. Likes, DMs prompt us to react more and engage less with information and opinions that are shared. You won't necessarily hear the words "help me" from someone who is trying to reach out for support. It can also come in the form of disengagement from digital conversations (WhatsApp, Instagram, Facebook etc.) and friends; preferring time on their own; wanting to not be 'seen'. This is not to say that those reticent might be calling out for help; there is no textbook definition of a "depressed person". One could be smiling through social gatherings/virtual drinks; uploading photographs on Instagram; sharing memes on WhatsApp groups and social media, and yet have a concoction of emotions posing a threat. Listen to both the spoken and unspoken, look out for changes in behaviours and actions. And what do you do after you have listened? Be empathetic and kind and proactively move past the platitudes of "you will feel better tomorrow" or "snap out of it" or "you look happy to me; this is just a passing feeling". Choose to be respectful and considerate with everyone you interact with, at home, at work - your peers, supervisors, juniors; at grocery stores, whomsoever you meet. To think that kindness is optional is a fallacy, kindness is mandatory.
These actions should not come as kneejerk reactions. And this is not just for times where there's heightened discourse on mental health. This needs to become a way of life. This needs to be internalized. The next time, you are feeling miffed, upset, or angry, pause and recalibrate your reaction. Is what I want to say likely to make them feel bad or sound hurtful? Can I say this differently, politely? Can I respond to this later with a cooler mind? If the answer to any of these is a yes, please make amends. It's not hard. In the words of Maya Angelou - try to be a rainbow in someone's cloud.
(Nidhi Dubey is Senior Vice President, Global Health Strategies and Country Director, Girl Rising India.)
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