Interview with Mental Health Scholar Sanjoni Sethi

Sanjoni Sethi is a mental health scholar. She has completed her Master’s Programme in Clinical Psychology (M.Sc Clinical Psychology) from Christ College, Bengaluru & is currently, an M.Phil Scholar studying Clinical Psychology. Sanjoni shows great interest in research in the area of mental health. She is the recipient of IJRULA award winner as the Best Revolutionist 2018  for her paper “Societal Influence on Emotional Competence”. 

HOW CAN WE EXPLAIN MENTAL HEALTH/ILLNESS IN LAYMAN TERMS?
Mental health means the over all well being of an individual. It includes your physical health, emotional wellness, and perceptive ability. So sometimes, our brain feels unwell like a chemical imbalance or we may not be able to think rationally or we may not be able to deal with information about the death of a loved ones. All these situations can lead to a mental illness. A mental illness is any other condition like a physical illness where the person feels unwell, sick, and uneasy. 

In all, mental health and wellbeing is to learn how to overcome one’s distress which each and every individual processes differently in their life. 

HOW DOES ONE GET TO KNOW IF ONE IS SUFFERING WITH A MENTAL HEALTH CONDITION?
Every mental health condition has a variety of symptoms. For example, when someone is down with viral fever, there are symptoms like temperature, cold and cough, headache. Similarly, if someone experiences depression, there are a list of symptoms such as experiencing depressed mood, not enjoying activities which were pleasurable before, feeling fatigue and others. When you have a mental health illness, you may find yourself not performing tasks at your utmost capacity, might feel distressed with your own emotions and behaviour, might feel you are different and sometimes, might have wish to hurt yourself or others. These are broad ways of identifying signs of mental health conditions. 

WHAT DOES ONE DO IF ONE FEELS THEY HAVE SYMPTOMS OF DEPRESSION?
One can always talk to their loved ones about their ill health or distressed feelings. There is also support available with regard to therapy. Mental health practitioners are available across the globe. You can connect with psychiatrists, clinical psychologists, or counsellors around you. Many times, people do not feel confident as to how does one talk to a therapist. Please feel free to meet a therapist and allow them to interview you. They are trained to understand your situation and will try their best to seek information about your feelings. 

 If need be, you can always enrol yourself in support groups or look out for other contemporary therapies such as art based therapy. 

WHAT DO YOU THINK WE LACK IN TERMS OF DEPTH AND KNOWLEDGE WHEN IT COMES TO MENTAL HEALTH?
First, we lack the awareness and sensitization towards mental health. Second, we significantly lack the insider or inner experience of a patient themselves. We have heard stories when people suffer from AIDS, cancer etc. We have textbook, journals, magazines, and experts to provide us the information on mental health. It is high time we allow people who are suffering to also explain how they might not fit a textbook criteria yet suffer with a mental health condition. 

WHY IS THERE A STIGMA AROUND MENTAL HEALTH? HOW CAN WE OVERCOME IT?
Stigma is very deep rooted. There is stigma attached to mental health due to poor information available about it. The lack of awareness and sensitization creates fear and one believes in untrue stories around it. For example, for the longest time there has been a notion that people with mental health conditions talk to themselves. That is one or two out of various conditions of mental health. Therefore, we have to educate more and more people. The first step is to overcome the fear associated with the term mental health. If you have headache, you will visit a doctor and take the prescribed drugs. Similarly, mental health is to look at how a person’s brain sometimes can be unwell in lay terms. There are other bodily functions and stressors in the environment that affect our mental health and wellbeing too. 

ANYTHING ELSE ON MENTAL HEALTH?
Mental health is not just to look after a psychologically ill individual. It is for strengthening an individual’s own potential so please acknowledge the field of mental health and psychology. We have to encourage people to seek support to feel better and that is the best thing to do for one self. 

To know more about Sanjoni Sethi don’t forget to connect with her on Social Media, she is active on Twitter @TheMadness4Real , Facebook @TheMadnessforReal , Intagram @themadnessforreal and LinkedIn @sanjoni-sethi

Sanjoni is also deeply involved in writing for her mental health blog known as ‘TheMadnessforReal’ to know more visit www.themadnessforreal.com

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