I wish you could post this to r/theonion, I really do. But no, here we are.
The Ministry of Health of India posted the following tweet earlier.
#Depression is a state of low mood that affects a person's thought, behaviour, feeling & sense of well-being. One must take up activities that keep him or her boosted in order to cope with depression. #SwasthaBharat #MentalHealth #LetsTalk pic.twitter.com/UJR3X7GwL2— Ministry of Health (@MoHFW_INDIA) June 26, 2018
As someone who does suffer from depression and anxiety, you can see why this grates on my nerves. I have been going to therapy for over a year, I take psychiatrist-prescribed medication, and I think about offing myself every other day, no big deal. And no, eating fruits doesn't make it go away.
When I first found out that the Ministry of Health is taking interest in talking about mental health, I was pretty excited. It's about damn time, don't you think? But then of course they gotta go ahead and pull this shit. The Ministry of Health defines depression as a "state of low mood that affects a person's thought, behaviour, feeling and sense of well-being". They go on to suggest, in their 246-character-long tweet, that "one must take up activities that keep him or her boosted in order to cope with depression".
These are the activities, according to the Ministry of fucking Health, that can help cope with depression:
- Follow a routine
- Be creative
- Take multi-vitamins
- Think positive
- Practice Yoga
- Stay clean
- Sleep for minimum 8 hours
- Eat fruits
- Go for walks
It's that easy, you guys. Who knew? After your 8-hour shut-eye, take a shower, clean your room, practice Suryanamaskar, walk around the city with a banana and a multi-vitamin shake, positively thinking about the world around you, creatively deciphering the hidden pictures in the clouds. Rinse and repeat. And there! You're cured.
I could go on and on about how entirely stupid this is, but let's focus on why this is so harmful. Doctors and psychologists have begun to protest against this tweet and infographic due to its ill-informed nature. Here's how the World Health Organisation defines depression:
Depression is a common mental disorder, characterized by persistent sadness and a loss of interest in activities that you normally enjoy, accompanied by an inability to carry out daily activities, for at least two weeks.
In addition, people with depression normally have several of the following: a loss of energy; a change in appetite; sleeping more or less; anxiety; reduced concentration; indecisiveness; restlessness; feelings of worthlessness, guilt, or hopelessness; and thoughts of self-harm or suicide.
They go on to mention:
Depression is treatable, with talking therapies or antidepressant medication or a combination of these.
In a country where more than 56 million people - 4.5% of India's population - suffer from depressive symptoms, many without the resources to understand what they're going through, to spread misinformation like this is not only absurd, but also incredibly harmful. I myself have been suffering from depression and anxiety for the past six years, and it took me five years to put a name to it. To get help. I was told to "get over it" and "just be positive" - but newsflash, it's easier said than done. My brain - like the 56 million other brains out there in this country - is fighting a constant battle with me. Telling me I'm not worth it. Telling me to give up. Telling me that there is nothing to live for. It's scary and heartbreaking to know that there's millions of other people who suffer from the same illness.
It's easy to say "get help", but I know that's it is very hard to see that it's not easy or accessible for most people. Most insurance plans don't cover it, and therapy sessions are quite expensive. People from marginalised communities (e.g. Dalits, scheduled castes, etc.) might find it even harder to find affordable therapy which they can actually feel comfortable going to. For India, it's very much an urban concept. Paying 1-3k for a single therapy session, or 3-5k for a test is simply not feasible for those with lesser economic backgrounds.
Instead of shitty infographics, maybe the Ministry of Health could do with investing more time in making therapy, tests and medication more accessible to the people in rural areas.
All I have to say is that I wish, six years ago, I knew that I was not alone. That I could reach out and get help. And that is what people need to hear.
Not be told to take a fucking walk.
If you yourself are suffering from mental health disorders, or know anyone who is, here are a few links that might be able to help.
If you're confused as to where you can find help, I'm more than happy to assist you in finding the right resources. You can contact me any time.