The phrase “get professional help” is generally regarded as a polite way of saying that one needs help from a psychiatrist, a doctor trained in treating mental illness. Mental illness, also called mental health disorders, refers to a wide range of mental health conditions — disorders that affect your mood, thinking and behavior. Examples of mental illness include depression, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, eating disorders and addictive behaviors. Mental illness does not necessarily mean mentally retarded. For too long, we as a society have not given mental health the importance it deserves.
Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make healthy choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.
Mental health and physical health are equally important components of overall health. These days, many in our society have become health conscious which is a positive development. However, when we say health conscious, we are generally referring to physical health and not mental health or both.
India has one of the highest prevalence rates of mental illnesses globally. According to the National Health Mission, about 6 – 7% of the population suffers from mental health problems in India whereas the National Mental Health Survey 2016 found that close to 14% of India’s population required active mental health interventions. Depression and anxiety disorders are the commonest mental disorders in India with 45-46 million people suffering from each. It is about time to bring mental health to the forefront of public discourse. Many people are in need of ‘professional help’ in our society.
(The above definitions of mental illness and mental health are as per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the national public health agency of the United States.)