In Conversation with Aakriti Joanna, Founder, and Psychologist, Kaha Mind.
In continuation of our World Mental Health Awareness series, we got in touch with Aakriti Joanna, Psychologist, and the Founder of Kaha Mind to understand the current mental health situation in India- in terms with both awareness and, the kind of mental health issues millennials and seniors face in India, and what we can do to take better care of both our family’s and our own mental health and well-being.
Digit: Hi Aakriti, thanks for taking the time out to speak to us. We’ve been following Kaha Mind for a while now and are in awe with the kind of work you’ll do. Could you shed some more light on what Kaha Mind is all about?
Aakriti: Kaha Mind is a mental health platform that allows people to seek help in the form of therapy either online or even in person. We are also determined to create a community where people feel like they can speak about their mental health struggles, listen to stories and find a safe space for themselves to learn more and be aware.
Benefits of Online Therapy
Digit: That sounds like something we really need in India. How has the response been so far and do you think people are more or less comfortable with counseling online and, why?
Aakriti: Online therapy is great, especially in India where mental health concerns are still looked at with the lens of judgment. Our clients have the option to switch between online and offline modes depending on their comfort. A lot of individuals who have not been in therapy previously and are still in two minds about it, tend to take up the online option because this means that they can do it from a place that they’re comfortable in, which makes a huge difference. A lot of students too tend to prefer the online option since it's something they're already well versed and comfortable with.
Myths about Mental Health Illnesses
Digit: India has seen a growth in mental health awareness in the past two to three years but there are still a large number of people who have certain apprehensions towards mental illnesses. For instance, many people shy away from treatment with the assumption that it isn’t as serious of a problem and that things will be okay. On the other hand, you also have people who shame people who visit a psychologist. A common response is, “Why? Are you mad?” which stems from the misunderstanding of what mental illnesses are even in the first place. What are your thoughts on the same and what are some of the myths people have about mental health that you’ve witnessed firsthand?
Aakriti: I think one of the most common myths is that people assume that you need to have something seriously wrong with your life for you to be in therapy. That’s not true! Therapy can also just be a way for you to make sure you’re doing well, just like a regular dental checkup. 😊
Another thing I’d like to talk about here is, when people shame others for taking medication for mental health illnesses. I really think we need to end pill shaming. Sometimes therapy, sometimes medication and sometimes a mix of both is needed for individuals to feel better. There shouldn’t be any shame attached to it.
A lot of this education about mental health needs to take place in school and, at home. Remarks like, “You are mad/crazy/psycho” need to be checked. People also use sentences like “He/She is so OCD!”, but OCD, anxiety, and depression are serious mental health concerns that affect so many people every day. Because of low levels of awareness, people think it’s okay to just use these as personality traits which they really aren't. And it is also disrespectful to the individuals who are actually suffering from these conditions.
Digit: Several reports state that mental illnesses are on the rise in India. According to the National Mental Health Survey last year, every 6th person in India needs some kind of mental health support. Why do you think this is the case, is it because there tends to be more awareness now on mental illnesses (perhaps people feel they can finally put a name to how and what they’re feeling now, being more aware) or is it because of certain factors that have led to this rise?
Aakriti: Ummm, there has absolutely been a huge rise in awareness. We now even have celebrities talking about their own mental health struggles. Also, thanks to social media people are slowly but surely sharing their struggles and receiving inspiration- which is very encouraging 😊
What to do when your senior parent or grandparent is coping with depression or loneliness?
Digit: In another National Health report, it was reported that more than 52% of senior citizens in India go through depression. Why do you think this is the case and what can our readers with seniors at home do to help their senior parents cope with depression or in some cases, prevent them from falling into depression altogether?
Aakriti: The reason this happens is that a lot of senior citizens don’t know what to do after retirement. By the time they retire, their children have also grown up and left to live their own lives. This can be a time of loneliness. It tends to get worse when they also happen to lose their spouse. Their life suddenly seems meaningless to them.
If anyone has senior parents or grandparents at home, they should encourage them to take up hobbies and exercise in the morning or even just take evening walks. You could also accompany them during these walks so they feel motivated to do so 😊 An important thing to keep in mind is that they’re lonely and often don’t have anyone to talk to. It’s always nice when family members and friends keep checking in on them, just to let them know that they’re still remembered, valued and cared for. And of course, apart from this- a mental health checkup would also be recommended.
Common Mental Health Issues in India
Digit: Those are some really helpful tips, thank you! 😊 Aakriti, as per your experience in counseling, which is some of the most common mental health issues people are dealing with, in India?
Aakriti: In this fast-paced world, anxiety and stress are on an all-time high. Work timings are all over the place and there are so many unrealistic deadlines that people are finding it tough to manage and keep up with the expectations thrown their way.
Along with this, Depression is prevalent as well- as many times it occurs along with stress and anxiety.
Mental Health Care Tips for Millennials
Digit: Mental Health is as common as a fever. Do you agree, why or why not?
Aakriti: The way we have physical health we have mental health. It’s just there. So take care of it. Our mind and body work together. When you’re really stressed, have you noticed a part of your body aching? Like maybe your shoulders or your head? When you’re nervous or anxious, do your palms sweat? Does your heart race? This is all your body’s way of telling you that something’s not right and you’ve got to take care of it. Our mental health is a part of who we are and when we don’t take care of it we are doing a disservice to ourselves.
Digit: That’s so true! I hope our readers take your advice seriously 😊 On that note, what would be your top five mental health care tips for millennials in India today?
· Take care of yourself (sleep well, eat your meals, take breaks often, have a routine, don’t let social media dictate your life)
· Spend at least 5 minutes a day with yourself (without your phones). Use this time to reflect on the day, journal, plan your next day or meditate.
· Exercise. Choose something you enjoy. It could be dancing, yoga, running. Sweat it out for a few minutes regularly.
· Be aware of your mental health. If you feel like something doesn’t feel right – seek help. Don’t check symptoms on Google but, instead talk to a professional. Seeking help is not a weakness. 😊
· Celebrate the small wins. We are so obsessed with big changes and goals that we don’t see the little steps we’re taking every day. It’s the little steps that truly matter the most and cause the ‘big change’. So be aware of that, acknowledge it and give yourself a tap on the back every now and then. You deserve it! 😊
Thanks, Aakriti, for your time in discussing these issues with us, and all the valuable insights on Mental Health. We really appreciate it and wish you all the best with all that you’ll are doing with Kaha Mind 😊
Note: Kaha Mind is an online mental health platform and community that both educates people about mental health and also, empowers those facing these issues, via online and offline therapy. You can follow them here. 😊