Let’s Talk about Mental Health

In Conversation with Dr. Achal Bhagat

How much time do you spend everyday reflecting on your own thoughts, feelings and actions? If you feel distressed or anxious, have you considered seeing a psychologist or a psychiatrist? Dr Achal Bhagat, a senior consultant psychiatrist and psychotherapist, practicing at Apollo Hospitals, says that every individual needs to look after their mental health just like they care for their physical health. Usually, people believe that a person is either sane or insane, but the world’s not just black and white. There has been a stigma attached with mental health problems but slowly we are coming out of it.

Dr Bhagat says, ‘if there’s a change in one’s thoughts, feelings or actions, which is alarming or which causes distress or dysfunction, then one should seek help’. He says that when this happens, one should either look for ‘talking cures’ such as consulting a psychologist or a counsellor or a doctor, who’ll recommend him/her to a psychiatrist. If you’re experiencing signs such as lack of interest or ability to enjoy, a low mood or sadness for more than 2 weeks, then you could be depressed. Other signs of depression are increased palpitations, loss of appetite, not being able to sleep, thoughts of hopelessness or helplessness, loss of confidence, anxiety and negative thoughts of harming oneself.

Depression is the most common form of mental disorder not only for adults but for children and adolescents too. Dr Bhagat says that children do not normally express about their mental health in words. They might express their emotions through their behaviour. If your child withdraws from school, friends or play and is agitated or hyperactive, he/she might be suffering from depression. He believes that communication is a valuable tool in understanding and resolving such issues. Dr Bhagat explains that depression during or after pregnancy is common and it eventually wears off. However, 10% of women who go through postpartum depression require treatment. Signs of pregnancy blues are guilt, helplessness, anxiety or irritation, which persists for more than 2 weeks. If you notice such signs, do consult a therapist or a doctor.

When asked about whether urban population is more vulnerable to mental health problems, Dr Bhagat replied that this is not the case and people in rural areas are equally facing mental health problems. He says that ‘while more and more people should come out and talk about mental health problems, unfortunately there aren’t too many structured solutions available in India and there’s a huge treatment gap between number of people seeking help and those who get help (around 90% in Delhi)’. He says that while we need to raise awareness about mental health issues, it is also important that the resources needed to address these issues are raised as well.

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