By: Tahreem Amin Mughal
“Tum pagal ho” said the family to their 25 year old daughter, Tahani as she told them she was seeing a therapist. In a country where mental health is laughed off faster than gobbling up a Nandos chocolate cake, imagine being a girl and bombarding your family with that kind of information.
It is extremely commonplace for people to raise their eyebrows and deem you as cuckoo or weak-minded upon hearing that you might have a deteriorating mental health and you are/will seek professional help for it; in fact that is the normal reaction, an abnormal reaction would entail actually understanding and empathizing with the person involved or listening to why they might need help in the first place.
Ironically enough, psychological problems in Pakistan are widespread, around 50 million people in Pakistan suffer from mental disorders ranging from anxiety and depression; caused by domestic issues, economic instability and a plethora of other problems that people are unable to cope with. From a religious and legal angle, suicide is a criminal offence but in 2012, more than 13,000 cases of suicide were reported in Pakistan; a number which is often misreported by families as they try to cover up out of shame. Little do they know, studies have shown that nearly 90% of the people committing suicide suffered some kind of mental disorder (Rafi, 2020).
However, the issue at large is not mental health itself, but the lack of conversation around it and how quickly we are to judge those who ever bring it up. We need to open our minds and hearts to the idea of a healthy brain; according to W.H.O, “mental health is a state of wellbeing in which an individual realizes their capabilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and is able to make a contribution to his or her community”.
With increased awareness regarding the issue, there are several ways that you can gauge your reaction next time someone tells you they’re having a mental breakdown. The most important one being the ability to LISTEN to someone without them feeling threatened or labelled ‘pagal’, suggesting them to seek professional help and not be ashamed about it, providing emotional support and potentially a shoulder to cry on if it comes to that, empowering individuals by using the right kind of language especially with women and minority groups around you and making them recognize that they are bigger than their insecurities and shortcomings.
“Life always works out, usually”, my favorite quote from the show ATYPICAL on Netflix. If you or anyone you know is going through a hard time, please reach out. I can’t tell you that it’s going to be okay just like I couldn’t tell Tahani, what I can tell you is that people are willing to listen; but before giving those people a chance, give yourself that chance. Because the first person who will believe you is YOU so convince yourself why you are important. And start from there.