Suicide, Burnout & Resilience: Our Top Mental Health Stories 2020
From loneliness to grief to anxiety to depression, 2020 was a year like no other. Read some of our best stories here
(If you feel suicidal or know someone in distress, please reach out to them with kindness and call these numbers of local emergency services, helplines, and mental health NGOs)
If there’s one overarching theme of 2020 it’s this: we collectively began to understand the profound importance of mental health.
In an unprecedented nation-wide lockdown, faced with a novel virus and economic crises, our anxiety and depression levels were in tatters. Then news of a Bollywood actor’s death by suicide rocked our country, and the news media reportage was insensitive and downright dangerous at times. All through this, we moved through collective grief and began to undertake online therapy and find coping mechanisms.
Here’s a lock back at some of our most impactful stories that captured the 2020 mood.
Why Language Matters: Guidelines for Reporting on Suicide
On 14 June, 34-year-old Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput died from suicide.
As condolences poured in, a heated but important conversation on mental health and the media's role began. As the months rolled on, the conversation has morphed into what many are calling a ‘witch-hunt’, with the media spouting unfounded myths on mental illness and flouting reporting guidelines on suicide.
FIT spoke to Dr Soumitra Pathare, consultant psychiatrist and Director of Centre for Mental Health, Law and Policy at ILS on how the media should report on suicides.
Watch the video here.
No, Mental Illness is Not a Fad: Busting Myths
First things first: Mental health is not a fad. Mental illness is a real, medical problem - JUST like diabetes or asthma.
The mental health discourse and media coverage of late Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput has taken an ugly turn, revealing just how stigmatised mental health is and just how poor our understanding of mental illness is.
FIT is here to bust some common myths around mental illness and create room for more kindness and support to people with mental health issues.
Watch more here.
What to Do If News Surrounding Suicide Is Triggering for You
Celebrity deaths and other highly publicised suicides have been found to have an enduring effect on people who consume news - working as triggers for those who may already be in emotional or physical distress. With the passing of Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput, media reportage surrounding suicide has come under the lens for being extremely insensitive; especially detrimental to people who are already vulnerable.
FIT speaks to psychologists to understand how people can cope with such pieces of news and information, what makes a particular section more exposed to these tendencies, and how people around them can help.
Read more here.
Psychiatrists Open Up on Mental Health in a COVID-19 Ward
In late August, FIT spoke to a few psychiatrists and counsellors who worked in COVID-19 wards in Mumbai to find out what happens to an infected patient's mental health, and how mental health professionals step in to help.
Dr Anindita Gangopadhya, a third-year resident in MD Psychiatry at JJ Hospital, Mumbai, recalls, “One patient asked me, ‘ Why are we being shunned from society and being put behind bars?’”
Catch the story here.
Mental Health Online: Is Online Therapy a Welcome Change?
The fear and uncertainty accompanying the pandemic has led to a heightened sense of acknowledgement of its mental health ramifications. The conversation around psychological wellbeing has never been this diverse and open, a development that has now created space for people to access and demand services that they may have shied away from earlier.
To understand the extent of this shift, FIT reached out to platforms offering medical help online.
Read on here.
‘Coronavirus Is Affecting Mental Health’: How Are Doctors Coping?
“We are doctors. Yes, there is a lot of stress. But we can't stop. That is not an option,” Dr Vishal Bhambri murmured before the conversation took a more serious turn. Last Tuesday, when Bhambri, a senior consultant of Internal Medicine at Fortis Hospital, Mohali, treated a patient who looked like a sure victim of coronavirus, anxiety took over the doctor. The patient had recently travelled back to India from Seattle, US, where there were already six reported deaths due to COVID-19.
“Yes, you are a professional, but that doesn’t mean you are totally insensitive towards the repercussions. I knew if the patient tested positive, I may also have to be quarantined. As a doctor you are prepared for such real time risks, but perhaps not your family. They don't want you to be exposed to any risk, and that's quite understandable on their part,” says Bhambri.
Read more here.
‘I’m Glad I Exist’: Stories of Suicide Survivors
Ayesha Iyer is a successful film-maker, dancer, theatre actor and CEO of her own company AyeKa.
Chhavi Dawar has found her purpose in life - something most people search for in vain - she is now a child rights activist and Ph.D. student.
Sangeetha Param is a TedX speaker, author of 2 books and mental health advocate.
All three of these women are also suicide survivors.
Surviving suicide and living with the depression that often accompanies it, is a lifelong journey. Watch them tell you theirs here.
Cost, Access, Stigma: Getting Mental Healthcare is Not Easy
There has been a lot of talk around mental health, which is fast becoming a silent epidemic in India. A young actor’s tragic death has opened up conversations again on a topic that is still considered a taboo or given the ostrich treatment. And even as one hopes that mental healthcare will become a serious priority for all stakeholders involved, the grim reality is that accessing mental healthcare, whether it is information on it or diagnosis and treatment for it, is not easy in India. There are several factors, most important of them being - Cost, Access and Stigma.
Find out more here.
‘2021 Can Be About Undoing Expectations’: Build Mental Resilience
This year has been like no other. 2020, we can all agree, was tough in unimaginable and dare I say, unprecedented, ways. Our collective mental health was in trouble, and we finally recognised its value for our overall well-being.
Still, new year, new us. Right? With the vaccine news out, many believe that 2021 will be a magic year where everything goes back to normal. January 1, 2021, has a lot of pressure.
But sadly, we know that just won’t happen. A vaccine will take time, there are new COVID variants and till then, this is our new normal for some more time to come. So how do we deal? One of the ways is by building mental health resilience.
Read more here.
Let’s Get Real About Pregnancy: Exploring Postpartum Depression
How do you see your mom? As someone who can do everything and does it all so well?
Motherhood is so often glorified and mom’s internal the societal pressure to be the best at everything. They’re always taking care of you, always know what you need and always there for you.
But who’s there for them?
“I have never seen a new mom who hasn't been overwhelmed,” says Dr Munjaal Kapadia, Gynecologist, Namaha Hospital.
Watch the video here.
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