I was recently watching an episode of Jane the Virgin with my mother, yes I know what the popular opinion is but it has amazing Latinx representation, is unapologetically sex-positive and also does not shy away from talking about taboo topics like sexuality and mental health issues.  Regardless that is not what this is about. One of the episodes that they did was about postpartum depression that women face, and the struggles that arise because of that, when my mother grew sceptic and said “Yeh sab humare zamane mein nai tha” (All this did not exist in our times) and that is what struck a chord with me.

All of us have heard this phrase before for everything, ranging from new technology to blatant ignorance about sexuality, gender and mental health. Why do desi parents say this? This question tends to open a lot of doors that make us reevaluate the narrative of taboo topics, which there is no shortage of in India.

Derogatory words such as ‘retard’ and ‘crazy’ are still being casually thrown in conversations.

The first thing that comes to a typical person when told to think about the word ‘mental illness’ is being locked in an institutions or the screams that we have all heard in numerous horror movies that don’t help much in destigmatising the notion mental health. Derogatory words such as ‘retard’ and ‘crazy’ are still being casually thrown in conversations. People have long associated the idea of mental illness being closely related to violence and that it can make a person living with it practically incapable of ever living a fulfilled life. We are taught to stray away from ‘such’ people and are taught that it’s better if we maintain our distance from them because they are harmful to our well-being.

According to a 2015 study conducted by the World Health Organisation for National Care of Medical Health, they found that India is of the most depressed countries in the world. It has about a suicide rate of 10.9% for every lakh people below the age of 44, and no one is doing anything about it. The stigma is so much so that we don’t have enough psychologists and counselors in India – the number is one for every four lakh. Although we still are not straying away from the idea of a person having to be perfect in order to be successful and live a happy life. We create an emphasis on having a perfect life, grades, body and even skin colour which is something we cannot even physically control and due to the hushed nature of everything we create a narrative of asking for help being equivalent to being weak.

Numerous studies have linked perfectionism to an array of anxiety disorders such as generalised anxiety disorder, panic disorder and even obsessive-compulsive disorder. It’s nothing but a tool of slow killing. This running idea is literally killing brown kids; any ‘deviation’ from the heteronormative ideal is not only frowned upon but also crushed from a very young age. Queer people are more likely to have depression and anxiety due to the scrutinising mindset. They are more likely to internalise the hate and negate their own emotions and identities especially at an early age and are known to develop imposter syndrome.

Clubbing in the idea of perfectionism along with the apathetic attitude towards mental disorders and the myth of millennial entitlement leads to and even isolating life where one is too afraid to ask for help.

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India is of the most depressed countries in the world. It has about a suicide rate of 10.9% for every lakh people below the age of 44, and no one is doing anything about it.

Anxiety and depression are just the ones that are more normalised than other disorders such as schizophrenia, borderline personality disorder and body dysmorphic disorder, which can manifest into eating disorders as well.

Also read: Maternal Mental Health Matters! Read This eBook By White Swan Foundation

The size zero fad that runs rampant in the mainstream media further downplay the effects it actually has on young men and women, fat shaming is so embedded in the Indian society, that people are praised for losing weight even if it can reach dangerously unhealthy levels. Loss of weight is such an achievement that it gets a huge amount of positive reinforcement and encouragement to lose more. Being skinny does not equal to being healthy. Over 600 million people in India are anorexic.

The fact that most of these people will go undiagnosed is not as saddening as the fact that they will feel alone throughout their struggle. We have the second largest population in the world and we rank the highest in these statistics of undiagnosed people and we haven’t done anything to de-stigmatise or question this idea of why did this not exist earlier? We need to eradicate this idea of this didn’t exist, it did. You didn’t have a name for it.

Stigmatisation also leads to a lack in the people who want to pursue psychology as a subject and creates even a lesser scope for a person to have a career in this field. Our population consists of around 1.3 billion people and we have only about 5,000 psychiatrists and less than 2,000 clinical psychologists. We have only one psychologist for each lakh people in India, and that number is actually alarming with the way our culture is set up.

Also read: Why We Need To Focus On Women’s Mental Health

Normalising discussions around mental health, setting up boundaries, talking about symptoms and manifestations without demonising them are the kind of conversations we need to have with each other so that we can have a future generation that will never have to hear the phrase my mother utter again except in the context of technology.


1. Live Mint
2. Bridges To Recovery
3. Economic Times

Featured Image Source: Digital Arts

About the author(s)

Saumya Jain is an intersectional feminist who is extremely passionate and opinionated. She wants to make the world more inclusive. She also loves reading and collecting stationery.

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