Depression. Anxiety. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Schizophrenia. Anorexia. How often have we used these terms loosely to make fun of friends? But these are all real conditions requiring medical attention, just as any physical ailment like blood pressure or cysts or a fracture. All too often, mental health carries a stigma with it, where people suffering from these ailments are considered crazy and made fun of. But thanks to a new breed of celebrities, mental health is getting its due in the public eye and finally being taken seriously. It all started when Deepika Padukone came out and spoke to a TV channel last year about her tryst with depression and how it had affected her. A top-paid film actress at the peak of her career – what’s to get depressed when you’re that, is what most people thought. But, as Deepika clarified, depression is an illness that can affect anyone, no matter how rich or famous. Today, Deepika supports an NGO that looks into mental health. Recently, actor Hrithik Roshan too came out and spoke about how he had suffered with depression. "I've been through my ups and downs. I have experienced depression, I have experienced confusion, as we all do. It's a very normal thing. We should be very casual about it when we speak about it. It should be spoken about casually," he told reporters, says the Huffington Post.

And it’s not just Bollywood. In a recent interview, Hollywood actress Amanda Seyfried admitted to suffering from OCD and taking medicines for it for the last 11 years.
You don’t see the mental illness: It’s not a mass; it’s not a cyst. But it’s there. Why do you need to prove it? If you can treat it, you treat it. I had pretty bad health anxiety that came from the OCD and thought I had a tumor in my brain. I had an MRI, and the neurologist referred me to a psychiatrist. As I get older, the compulsive thoughts and fears have diminished a lot. Knowing that a lot of my fears are not reality-based really helps

- Amanda Seyfried

Talking about mental health issues is important to create awareness in society about these ills and they are not uncommon and ensure they don’t carry a stigma. Like with any physical ailment, this is nothing to be ashamed of. Too many people self-medicate and abuse alcohol and/or drugs in a bid to make themselves feel better, when all they really had to do was visit a doctor and take some medication. Reading about or listening to mental health patients’ stories can help you identify symptoms in yourself or a loved one and possibly save their life. Just like with physical health conditions, there are a number of mental health ailments, of which the most common ones are listed below, as per National Institute of Mental Health.
  • Depression: This is a common but serious mood disorder, which makes you persistently feel sad, anxious and empty. You might feel hopeless, and have feelings of guilt, worthlessness or helplessness. You’ll also find concentration difficult and have suicidal thoughts. Statistics suggest that India, at 36%, has the highest rate of depression anywhere in the world as well as the highest suicide rate in the world (one lakh per year).
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD): This is a condition where the patient has uncontrollable, reoccurring thoughts (obsessions) and behaviours (compulsions) that he or she feels the urge to repeat over and over. This could be anything from a fear of germs or contamination to ordering and arranging things in a particular, precise way to repeatedly checking on things.
  • Schizophrenia: A severe mental disorder, it affects how a person thinks, feels, and behaves. People with schizophrenia may seem like they have lost touch with reality. Symptoms could include hallucinations, delusions, reduced speaking, and trouble focusing or paying attention. The condition was also highlighted in the Russell Crowe movie, A Beautiful Mind.
  • Anxiety: While it’s normal to be anxious occasionally, an anxiety disorder is when the anxiety gets worse over time and starts affecting everyday life, including job performance, school work, and relationships.
  • Eating disorders: These include anorexia (extremely restricted eating and extreme thinness), bulimia (forced vomiting, excessive use of laxatives or diuretics, fasting, excessive exercise) and binge eating (eating unusually large amounts of food in a specific amount of time, even when you're full or not hungry).

Where You Can Seek Help

If you feel like you or a loved one may be suffering from a mental illness, contact a psychiatrist or clinical psychologist in your city. You can also get in touch with NGOs such as Born This Way, NIBS India, AASRA and Deepika Padukone’s Live Love Laugh Foundation, all of which have helplines you can call on.


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