Mental health awareness workshop in Bandra

Bollywood songs are just one of the creative avenues by which mental health professionals are hoping to attract a large number of people to a mental health awareness workshop to be held this weekend

Bandra’s Carter Road regulars may find their upcoming weekend evening, has a slightly different, more serious semblance to it. A mental health organization called The Thought Co. is holding a Mental Health Awareness Weekend called MHAW in short, at the Carter Road amphitheater, to bring about greater awareness about mental health problems.

Depression may be a serious condition but is often dismissed
Depression may be a serious condition but is often dismissed

The two-day programme to be held on the sea-swept promenade aims to capture the attention of people and throw light on a multitude of mental health problems like depression, alcoholism, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), schizophrenia and a host of others. Mental health problems are inherently deceptive, since they do not have physical manifestations like other health problems.

Power. The MHAW will play at an amphitheater near you
Power. The MHAW will play at an amphitheater near you

Shrouded in myths, and saddled with shame and stigma, mental health is largely ignored in the country, said Dr Hozefa Bhinderwala and Priyanka Kartari, both mental health professionals, at a press conference held at Press Club (Azad Maidan) in the city. A slide show gave figures and facts about mental health, with depression cited as the most prevalent mental problems amongst Indians.

Dr Hozefa Bhinderwala (l) and Priyanka Kartari of The Thought Co. Pic/Bipin Kokate
Dr Hozefa Bhinderwala (l) and Priyanka Kartari of The Thought Co. Pic/Bipin Kokate

Clinical depression in fact, is a much misunderstood medical condition. Chronic depressives need to be correctly diagnosed as depressed and many times, may need medication. Depression is often not recognized by the victim or the family. At times, it is dismissed as “feeling low” with well-meaning relatives and family simply saying “it will go away,” or advising the person, naively to laugh and think happy thoughts.

Of the bottle. Alcoholism is a mental health disorder

Of the bottle. Alcoholism is a mental health disorder

Digital Etiquette
The duo actually wants to bring an element of professionalism into mental health, and give the message that problems cannot simply be wished away. Sometimes, they may be light but at other times, they are serious medical conditions that require attention and medical help.

A large chunk of their presentation comprised rapid lifestyle changes that are bringing about several mental health conditions, especially amongst youngsters. Prime amongst this they stated is “digitization and technology”. Kartari and Dr Bhinderwala stated, “Just like some years ago, when there was a movement to introduce sexeducation in schools, today, we need to introduce digital education or digital etiquette in schools. It is time to push this forward and make it a subject in the curriculum.

Youngsters must be told that they can use technology, but, one has to impose time limits and teach them 'how' to use it responsibly (at what time, for what duration and purpose) given the plethora of gadgets and devices that we have today.”

Both speakers stated that the weekend workshop’s signature tune will be Bollywood. “We have tweaked a number of popular Bollywood numbers, changing their lyrics to talk about mental health,” said Dr Bhinderwala, crooning a few songs with the altered lyrics, to illustrate his point. The healthcare pros state it is easier to get attention from people in this way, rather than lectures. “We had this programme in October 2013, where we saw at least 300 persons attending. This time, we hope the figure goes up to at least 1,000. It is always more effective to attract people through creative mediums.”

The Thought Co. representatives claimed that today, even with more awareness, people still go to so-called holy persons instead of professionals, if they have a problem. “We, supposedly normal people are blessed and privileged. We have to realize that they, the mentally ill, need our support and help, instead of laughing at them.”

Instant ails
One of the biggest offshoots of this “at a click of a button” age is that, “It has brought forth the culture of instant gratification or results, that is causing a lot of problems amongst youngsters. We have lost the slowing down process or one that ensures you have to think things through. People are not putting time into relationships.”

When asked whether economic factors played a big role in stress, Kartari and Dr Bhinderwala agreed that money was a worry, but, it was compounded by this quick fix culture. “People want big money yesterday, not even today,” said Dr Bhinderwala illustrating his point. The speakers also touched upon cyber bullying which is a huge aspect of contemporary living these days.

“The ramifications of cyber bullying are huge, as it happens online but you carry the effects of it offline too,”said Kartari. “In cyberpsace even the smallest built kid is as tough as the big-built bully as he only has to use one finger to click and take revenge,” stated Dr Bhinderwala. In that way, cyberspace is a great equalizer.

They stressed that mental health needs professionals ranging from psychiatrists to psychologists, counsellors, physiotherapists and speech therapists. “Mental health is not the domain of one person, all these combined may be needed for mental health,” they stated. It is for this reason that there are a slew of organizations coming together under the MHAW umbrella on the weekend, to deal with and create awareness about how to protect your mental health.

It was apparent that the big ‘R’ - ‘recognition’ is still key in treatment of mental illness. Sometimes, it is not just the person but families that are in denial that there is a mental problem. So, as the crowd seeks to burn its calories away at the Carter Road, or couples canoodle while the sun begins to dip, halt if you hear the latest Bollywood item number playing with unknown lyrics. It may be MHAW, whose organizers hope they have a ‘housefull’ sign at their 6 to 8 pm workshops this weekend.

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