‘Our battle right now is to break mental health stigma and misconceptions’
Henlly Phom Odyuo
Dimapur, Oct. 9 (EMN): Nagaland is facing an acute shortage of mental healthcare professionals as well as lack of access to mental healthcare facilities, said Clinical Psychologist, Themmungla Raman Longkumer
Speaking to Eastern Mirror, Longkumer said that there is an urgent requirement of job creations for mental healthcare professionals in the state, adding that people did not take up this profession in the past because of lack of job prospects.
The District Mental Health Programme (DMHP), she said, has been doing well for the past three-four years and it has been rolled out in six districts so far, with plans to open in the rest of the districts to the programme accessible.
However, Longkumer lamented that there are only professionals and ‘no clinical psychologists’.
“Although the scenario is changing in the state with regard to mental health, as more people are opening up about their mental health, the stigma attached to it is still there and more awareness needs to be reached in the rural areas,” she shared.
Longkumer, who has been in this profession for over 10 years, suggested that the policy makers should include mental health as an integral part of healthcare facilities.
‘Creation of jobs in this profession is the need of the hour keeping in mind the state population, as mental healthcare cannot be neglected,’ she said.
She also pointed out that women’s mental healthcare should also be at the forefront as postpartum depression is often unnoticed and unrecognised even by close family members, while most people are even unaware that they are going through it.
“It is paramount that mental healthcare be accessible to everyone regardless. Our first and foremost battle right now is the fight to break the stigma and misconceptions of mental health, to add more layers of complexities such as divisions based on economical status could may be turn this into a losing battle. I truly believe that if focus and importance is given to improving an individual’s mental health irrespective of who they are; it will have positive ripple effect on the society at large,” she asserted.
The battle and the win
Rozila Sangtam, who wrote the book “You are not alone”, said that she also struggled with mental health issues in college for almost three years.
Recounting her years of battling mental illness, she said: “It was in 2016 inside the classroom when my heart suddenly palpitated and went through a panic attack by chance. In due course of time, my heart palpitation would increase when I stressed out, took problems to myself and when I was lost in thought when alone.”
Sangtam said that she could not understand her condition but when she came across the symptoms of her condition on social media, she finally understood what she was going through.
She thought that her state of health was a ‘punishment from God’.
It was in 2020, when she shared about her mental state to her family, that she had a major breakthrough. She shared that her mother had gone through the same condition and it was only when she shared about her state that she felt comforted.
Sangtam said that she turned to gardening, knitting and exercising to distract her mind and she could not seek professional help owing to the pandemic. However, with the support of her family, she came through her mental state.
During her battle with mental illness, she also wrote poetry, which she said, was like therapy for her. It was then that she decided to compile those poetries and publish a book.
“Initially, before considering publishing the book, I was scared of people’s judgement but then I thought if I could at least help one person through my book, it would be a joy to me,” she shared.
Sangtam’s book “You are not alone” takes the readers through her journey with anxiety and depression.
‘The poems are very personal and it talks about the need of a breakthrough and the need of a sincere listener in the midst of chaos. Some of the poems also talk about memories of my childhood days and schooling,’ she shared.
“The poems are reflections of the dark side of my world which was once unseen and unheard (now known), where one had no choice except to wake up and fight every day masked with the best of smiles. In all these years of struggle, God was faithful and he gave me courage and hope. This book is for all who are fighting battles; they are not alone and indeed, there is a hope,” Sangtam said.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), close to one billion people around the globe have mental disorder and anyone, anywhere, can be affected. Depression, the organisation said, is a leading cause of disability worldwide and a major contributor to the overall global burden of disease. Globally, it is estimated that 5% of adults suffer from depression.
WHO maintained that mental health is one of the most neglected areas of public health, and social stigma, discrimination, and human rights abuses of people with mental health conditions further precipitate the situation of mental health disorders.
October 10 is observed as “World Mental Health Day” and this year’s theme is “Mental Health in an unequal world”.