In the name of #MentalHealth – Mumbai Mirror

Posted: June 22, 2020 at 3:47 pm

This post was added by Alex Diaz-Granados

BY SONALI GUPTA

TERMS OF ENGAGEMENT

Last Sunday afternoon, when news of Sushant Singh Rajputs demise came out, it was shocking to say the least. Within a couple of hours, my social media timeline was filled with posts, which were speculating and ascribing reasons for his death or numerous accounts sharing their own mental health stories. Not just that, there were posts giving advice to people about what to do when struggling with a mental health concern and also stating that its essential that people talk to someone or even saying that their DMs (direct messages) are open, for anyone who is struggling. The twist here is that none of these people were qualified mental health professionals.

I sat silently all of last week trying to process and understand what it was that caused so much discomfort in me. My concern is everyone is taking on the role of a mental health expert and oversimplifying the therapeutic process. Advice is available quite easily in our society, just speak to an uncle and hell have a lot to say about your situation. But theres a difference between a real fix and patchwork. We live in times where people who have done a 10-day course on counselling or a 3-month Diploma or those who struggled with mental health issues are claiming to be therapists or doling out advice.

Dont fret to ask your therapist their qualifications, experience, or even understanding of what your rights as a client are. Making an informed decision on who gets to counsel you is a big step towards healing.

The reality is as mental health professionals we are taught to not give advice and instead work with clients to find their own answers. We create safety nets that are specific to every situation. Having worked for 16 years, I have realised that every mental health crisis requires a lens where we take into account the clients unique life situations, psychosocial stressors, social support and then their personality before we figure out how to navigate the situation.

When you are struggling with depression, angst, a break-up or a financial crisis, its not easy to reach out and talk to someone. Sometimes people even struggle to get out of their bed. In those situations how do you expect them to DM and write to you about their feelings or struggle. I often encourage clients to tell me their personal stories at a pace that feels right to them. My belief is that even though therapy is transactional and bound by rules of confidentiality, it takes time to trust your mental health professional too.

A process of working on your emotions, whether its shame, guilt, despair, anxiety and then if you are dealing with trauma, depression, grief or substance abuse, all of it takes time and a long process where you learn to sit with difficult feelings and then ask yourself if you really want to make the long-term change. Most psychiatrists and therapists will tell you how the journey towards deepening and sustaining the changes is a slow and difficult one. These advicebased social media conversations around mental health are trivalising other peoples intelligence and undermining the years of hard work clients in therapy put in to reach a place where they start feeling more at peace with themselves.

We are totally underestimating that when people share a very intimate personal feeling, or feelings of self-harm, how you respond to them affects how they would feel. What you can do is suggest number of helplines, therapists, psychiatrists and offer that you are ready to accompany them if they would want that. A gentle check-in and just offering your presence is enough.

We always need conversations around mental health. At the same time, whats worrisome is that in the recent couple of years its become a new hashtag. No one puts this sentiment as poignantly as Hasan Minhajs The Patriot Act: Now mental health is clearly having a moment and some people really want to cash in. While compassion, selfcare and mindfulness are the new buzzwords, Im not sure if they are being embodied in our personal identities or into our communities to build systemic resilience. This is exactly where our work begins.

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In the name of #MentalHealth - Mumbai Mirror

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