Fri, 28 Feb, 2020

Matters of the mind!

10th October 2019, 03:14 Hrs


As the dependence on chemicals across the world is increasing and hampering hormonal balance, people are increasingly becoming prone to mental illnesses. When triggered with challenging situations or failures, instead of facing life bravely, they escape it or show suicidal tendencies and this is not restricted to a particular age group or gender. The entire populace seems to be experiencing psychological issues, leading the world towards major emotional crisis. World Mental Health Day celebrates awareness for the global community in an empathetic way, with a unifying voice, helping those feel hopeful by empowering them to take action and to create lasting change. This year, the World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH) has decided to make ‘suicide prevention’ the main theme of World Mental Health Day. Suicidal behaviour has existed throughout human history, but due to several complex factors, it has increased gradually in all parts of the world and, in the past few decades, has reached alarming statistical levels. Every year 800,000 people die of suicide which is one person every 40 seconds.

“As 90 percent of physical illnesses have their origin in the mind, it is necessary to keep our mind in a healthy state,” claims psychologist and psychotherapist Shobhika Jaju, who practices at Silver Linings: Guidance and Counselling Centre, Margao. Sad but true - one in two persons who walk in her clinic for any given session is seen to have an ideation for suicide. The cases that walk into the clinic suffer from depression, anxiety, relationship issues, break-ups or academic issues. “For us, it is mandatory to screen them for suicidal thought which is a more serious issue. Suicidal ideation can be commonly seen from the age of 14 to 50-55,” states Jaju. 

Speaking on the ratio of male-female population exhibiting the tendency of suicide, Jaju claims, “In Goa, it is equal. The only reason that women seem to outnumber men, is because women are more open to talk and admit, while men do not confess easily, fearing it may be taken as a sign of weakness. But when it comes to suicidal ideation, both genders exhibit it.” A post-graduate in Clinical Psychology from Mumbai University, Jaju is also an assistant professor of Psychology at Chowgule College, Margao.

Health anxiety is very commonly seen among people. And even teens of 16-17 suffer from relationship problems. Failed relationships or break-ups lead to depression. Addiction too is an issue – substance abuse is common in Goa, especially alcohol, cigarettes and weed, Jaju points out. However, there is a silver lining in the work she does - the rate of bringing the people out from depression and suicidal ideation is very high. 

“With timely consultation, chances of getting over suicidal thoughts are high. We can address the nature of transient suicidal thoughts, offer the person a strategy for coping and guide on what and how to think,” shares Jaju who has been practicing in Goa for the past four years and has created a niche for herself in this profession. 

Do her patients need continuous counselling? In some cases, one time consultation is enough. India does not have that set up for people to visit their psychologists regularly. It’s seen that 35-40 per cent cases need 7-8 sessions which is roughly two months. Some come and talk regularly, and maintain contact. Some do not come for further sessions. Some come to clear their basic doubts. “If need for prescribing drugs is felt, we have psychiatrist on the board. Serious cases that need immediate attention and drug intervention are referred to the psychiatrist. If symptoms are severe the person is not emotionally stable. There’s lot of anxiety and the person cannot concentrate even for five minutes. Such cases do need medication to stabilize them. Once they cool down, we bring them to talking terms. It opens them further and makes them listen to what we say. As the suicide risk is high among such cases, we have to handle them delicately,” she maintains. 

Lifestyle changes can bring about positivity. Inculcating hobbies and developing interests may add joy to a dull, boring life, offering the person a feel-good mental state. Generally, people like to live a fairly protective life and if we inculcate good habits, we can lead a stress-free life. Jaju advices, “Everybody must instill in them good habits - yoga, meditation, exercise, proper diet, enough sleep on a regular basis can lead to relaxed life. It’s easier to talk to relaxed people than anxious ones.”

Jaju’s clinic in Margao houses a team of half-a-dozen consultants who are specialized in different fields. While she deals with adolescents’ and adults’ problems there are others who deal with little children. Jaju recalls having a stint with schizophrenic patients at the Missionaries of Charity in Kolkata where she worked prior to her practice in Goa. 

Since today, the stigma related to mental illnesses is gradually decreasing and more people are talking openly about their need to seek help, the society is able to deal with these problems comfortably. However, there can be no one particular reason why a person suffers from mental illness. Hormonal imbalance, stressful situation, major life change, things not working the way one wants them to etc can trigger mental imbalance in a person. The best way is to adopt a positive, happy-go-lucky outlook towards life and not try to blame self or someone else, when life places you in challenging situations. 

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