“If life has become a struggle, and usual coping strategies are not helping, then there should be no hesitation in seeking professional help.”
Dr. Shyam Bhatt , Mental Wellness Expert, CureFit
An excerpted version of this appeared in my article ‘Expert in the house’ for Vogue India and this e-interview was made possible thanks to Vogue and Curefit, Bangalore.
How does one define mental wellness?
Mental wellness, like happiness, is difficult to define. It is not merely the absence of mental illness, but also a feeling of vitality, joy, and contentment. A person who is mentally well would be free from chronic tension and worry, and feel capable of meeting challenges in life. He or she would have the self-awareness to manage their own emotions, have compassion, empathy and a healthy connection with others.
Words like stress and depression are used very commonly – when should these become a matter of concern?
Stress is a fairly common response to the demands of daily life. Clinical depression is a medical illness characterized by a low mood among other symptoms.
Although sadness often occurs in clinical depression, usual sadness is not the same as depression. If the low mood persists beyond two weeks and is experienced nearly every day, all day and accompanied by other symptoms such as decreased interest in the activities that previously were enjoyable, altered sleep patterns, changes in appetite, lowered self-esteem and negative thinking, then it is likely to be clinical depression rather than passing stress .
Any do’s and don’ts when in therapy?
Do find the right therapist. Since there is not enough regulation in India, therapists come from varying backgrounds. Ensure that they have the right training and experience to help you. In addition, you must feel comfortable, accepted and not judged in the sessions.
Don’t expect therapy to cause rapid changes. Often it takes several sessions to see benefits. However the benefits of good therapy are long-lasting and deep.
Don’t become dependent on your therapist. Although in the early days of therapy, it is normal to experience a sense of dependence, the ultimate goal of therapy is help the client be autonomous, to make their own decisions
Why does one need to consult an expert? Why don’t people seek expert help ?
We often don’t ask this question in other fields. For any complex task, or problem, we would consult an expert – whether it’s cardiac disease or diabetes, or even in other situations such as building a house or repairing a computer. The mind and the brain are of course extremely complex, expertise, knowledge and experience are needed to determine the cause of emotional distress and to help.
The reasons for not seeking expert opinion are many. Other than shame and stigma, a lack of awareness prevents many people from seeking expert help for mental health.
Many people mistakenly equate therapy with conversations with a friend, and since many symptoms of mental illnesses overlap with day-to-day sadness and anxiety, people are further confused about the need for expert help. In fact, it’s not easy for a person to gain insights about their own subconscious mind. Also, many emotional issues have biological causes that can only be diagnosed by a doctor, including alterations in metabolism, physical illnesses or alterations in the brain functioning.