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It has been 5 years since dear Zindagi and yet the stigma around therapy abounds


Dear Zindagi, released today five years ago, was arguably the first major Hindi film to show someone struggling with mental health issues in everyday light.

Unlike his popular predecessors who had exaggerated mental infirmities (Kavita by Smita Patil in the 1982 film Arth by Mahesh Bhatt) or a person who suffered from it as a villain (Rahul Mehra by Shah Rukh Khan in the Yash Chopra film in 1993 Darr), Dear Zindagi did not take pity on Bhatt’s Alia Kaira or pass a value judgment on her. It just let her be as she realized and dealt with her unresolved trauma. And in doing so, it has become a beacon showing a country, largely oblivious and uninformed about mental health, the extent of the problem, and how to tackle it.

It has been five years since Gauri Shinde gave the world this sensitive and important film. Since then, several celebrities have spoken publicly about their mental health journey, trying to raise awareness. But despite that and all the hubbub that surrounds him on social media, little has changed on the ground. People are always skeptical about seeing a therapist or talking about their mental health in society. Families always see it as an embarrassing anomaly that is best hidden in the attic.

English Literature Specialist Dr Reva Mehra was diagnosed with clinical depression in 1995 when she was in class 11. “In India, anyone across the spectrum of mental illness is summed up under one heading. generic term: paga. If a Parveen Babi dies of schizophrenia, she is pagal. Meanwhile, someone with clinical depression is also a pagan, ”she said.

“The first time my family recognized that something was wrong with me was when I tried to hurt myself as a teenager. It was then that my mother finally realized that what I was going through was so painful that I was forced to do what I did. In a family where no one else is as mentally vulnerable as you are, they don’t quite recognize that you have a problem. Any type of illness that does not manifest itself with obvious symptoms to others is poorly understood. If you didn’t have a fever, you wouldn’t understand it. If you haven’t had COVID-19, you won’t have it. It is the same with mental infirmity. If you haven’t experienced it, you can’t imagine what it is.

“For so many years I have been trying to reach them. What people see me doing, my excellent academic record, my professional success, are the things they understand. My mental wandering, no one does or wants to do it, ”Mehra adds.

Tanya Saxena, a 30-year-old entrepreneur who has been in therapy for four years now, has a similar story to share. “I tried to tell my family about it, but they weren’t ready to listen. My mom doesn’t know and my dad doesn’t care. Every time I try to bring up the subject, they tell me that I have gone mad. It is pointless. Forget about my family, even my cousins ​​my age don’t understand. They have not experienced anything similar, even from a distance. They are happy in their cocoon and don’t want to come out, ”she says.

Not just within the family, which is a person’s primary social unit, insensitivity to mental health abounds at all social levels. “I was in college and suffered from clinical depression. I was on medication and all people saw was a vehicle from a “mental hospital”, where I was kept under observation for seven days, dropped me off at my home. So I was the butt of all the jokes in college. During those three years, they never let me forget that such a thing had happened to me, ”Mehra says.

Even professionals in the medical community are judging. “The wallet under which my counselor at Santokba Durlabhji Memorial Hospital in Jaipur operates is drug rehabilitation. Nasha Mukti. Every time I walk in and pay at the counter, the people sitting across the way gauge me by. silence, thinking I’m some kind of drug addict, ”Mehra explains.

“The first thing doctors ask me is my lineage, trying to trace my poor sanity back to my ancestors. Is Mental Illness Hereditary? Is there a gene that causes insanity? In fact, the way they plotted it, they tend to believe that it is more of a female disease than a male disease, ”Mehra adds.

Riri Trivedi, Integrated Regression Therapist, Clinical Hypnotherapist and Co-Founder of Wellness Space, Ahmedabad, agrees that there is little research being done in India in psychotherapy. “It’s a very new field where you do trauma work, you release it from the body, you reframe yourself in the mind. Unfortunately in India there is no awareness around such powerful techniques as regression, inner child labor, empty chair, and piece work.

She says people don’t know what will work for them. “They need to understand that psychotherapists are different from psychiatrists and psychologists. Psychology as a field of study does not allow its professionals to undergo treatment. They can only do analysis. You can have 50 sessions with a psychologist, go for three years, and still not get results. Because just talking, rationalizing, understanding, and intellectualizing your problem cannot heal all trauma.

“Meanwhile, psychiatrists are doctors so influenced by the pharmaceutical lobby that they usually only give drugs that are a combination of four to five chemicals such as dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins. Your body should create them naturally, but it doesn’t due to some challenges and trauma. However, drugs do not work at the root. They just numb you. They don’t help you overcome trauma, change your beliefs, or work on your emotions. That’s what therapists do, ”says Trivedi.

She adds that psychiatrists and psychologists can help, as long as you know what you need. “In severe cases, we refer to psychiatrists as an emergency measure. During this time, in mild cases, psychologists and counseling can help. But if you are suffering from trauma, PTSD or trauma-related anxiety, depression or panic attacks, you should see a psychotherapist.

So what should a person looking for a therapist keep in mind? “I suggest people go to therapists who are doing evidence and research, publish papers (especially in the areas of neuroscience, trauma, psychology and physiology) and do some testing. clinics. When you go to see a knowledgeable therapist, it gets measurable. For example, we measure progress and changes in our clients every four sessions. Unfortunately, most of the so-called healers and therapists don’t take any measurements. Therefore, it is crucial that you check the therapist’s affiliations, certifications and if he has published articles. People turn to the wrong professionals and then their confidence in therapy is compromised, ”says Trivedi.

The next question that deserves attention is what to look for in a therapist. Sidhartha Mallya, son of famous alcohol baron Vijay Mallya, who recently published If I’m Honest, a book about his experiences with mental health, says you need to know what you’re comfortable with. “You will only come out of therapy to the extent that you are willing to devote to it. If you find someone you feel comfortable opening up with, you will likely get more help from them. It’s all in the connection. So if you can, try it with a few therapists until you find the one you gel the most with, ”he says.

Mehra agrees. “Your therapist should be able to listen to you objectively without any judgment. They should also speak very carefully. When you talk to someone who is having mental health issues, no matter how happy or balanced they seem, you have to weigh everything you say to them very carefully because they cling to it. Additionally, a therapist must be empathetic.

For Saxena, a therapist trying to invalidate your concerns is a major red flag. “They should think it’s normal and natural to feel what I am feeling. They shouldn’t make you feel like a victim. Everyone you try to talk to about your mental health makes you feel angry, wrong, strange, or unimportant. You don’t want your therapist to make you feel the same too.

She also cautions against choosing a therapist of the opposite sex. “It is very important that your therapist is of the same sex. A friend’s therapist fell in love with her. It took a toll on his life. We share our most personal stories with our therapist, let our guard down, become vulnerable. It is inevitable to feel a sense of closeness to them. Therefore, it’s best not to complicate things further, ”says Saxena.

If you have mental health issues, Trivedi advises that you first try working on them yourself before deciding to see a therapist. “There are several self-healing techniques such as EFT, self-hypnosis, meditation, and chanting that can help. Learn research-based techniques that can help you deal with, process, and release negative emotions. If they don’t work, then seek therapy, ”she says.

“You can’t go into therapy for your life. You need to rewire your brain, which has neural pathways that form from repeated behaviors. If you want to change a behavior, you have to change this brain path. It won’t happen if you understand it intellectually, ”she adds.

Trivedi, Saxena, Mehra, and Mallya all feel that it’s shame, guilt, abuse, and social censorship, especially when you’re young, that it all starts. “We need to create an environment for children that allows them to be. Yes, you need to set healthy boundaries, but don’t be overly critical of everything your child does. When parents do too much “do this, don’t do that,” children lose their authenticity and their inner selves which is impulsive, creative, lively. This is when all of these problems begin.

“As a society, we have to learn not to be judgmental. We need to understand that everyone’s life experiences and challenges are different. They make them what they are. Pause for a few moments before reacting and assess why someone is doing what they are doing. If we do just that, it will help iron out a lot of our problems, ”says Trivedi.


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