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Understanding mental health early in life can boost well-being in later years: Experts

July 3, 2020
– Akhila Damodaran

To encourage conversations around mental health in the country, Amrita Tripathi, founder-editor of ‘The Health Collective’, an online portal dedicated to mental health, and Meera Haran Alva, consultant psychologist and psychotherapist, have recently launched their book titled Young Mental Health. The book explores the nuances of mental health in adolescents and young adults through interviews with experts, lived experience, and storytelling through comics.

Mental health

Talking about the book, Meera Haran Alva says, “The idea was to look at stories, shared experiences and expert views, through an Indian lens, so as to learn how to talk about mental health and disorders in a less complicated way. There is of course no one-size-fits all model, and we have been very careful to ensure that the book isn’t prescriptive or full of ‘You should do this’ or ‘You Shouldn’t do that’ lectures.”

Believing that understanding mental health early in life can boost one’s well-being in later years, the experts chose to focus on the age group spanning adolescence to young adulthood. “All individuals irrespective of age, experience mental health issues as all human beings have ‘mental health’. But early intervention, identification and treatment or support or therapy can prevent chronic and more serious mental health issues and illnesses. Often families or parents bring their young when issues are escalated. We urge early intervention and reaching out for support early on as and when you begin to feel the need,” she says.

Common mental health issues among the young

The common mental health issues covered in the book are depression, anxiety, stress, bullying, exam stress, eating disorders and body image disorders. “As suicide is a leading cause of death among young Indians, the book also covers the issue through interviews, including lived experience narratives that discuss suicidal ideation. This has been done with a trigger warning and we have shared information about third-party helplines, which is critical,” she says.

The experts worked on the book, which was released on June 14, for about a year. “We were also able to build on some great interviews and stories or comics that we had featured on the website The Health Collective. We wanted to make sure that we have covered major issues but also be mindful not to pack everything in as we had to also ensure that the content is readable,” she says.

The comics by Solo and Ishita Mehra in the book narrate lived experience. “Storytelling through comics makes the conversations less intimidating. There is so much fear and stigma around these issues and we hope the book can demystify and destigmatise,” says Alva.

No shame in seeking support for parenting

In her 17 years of experience, Alva says she has observed that the young are more open to talking about their mental health issues and seek help. Friends and families, schools and the system as a whole can help eliminate stigma. “With respect to parents and caregivers, there are parenting skills that can be acquired to help support better mental health for children such as listening skills, emotional regulation, problem solving etc. It’s helpful when parents do some self-work of reflecting on their own psychological issues and emotional responses to situations. This awareness can help them respond more effectively to their children and promote a closer relationship. Parenting is perhaps one of the most challenging jobs in the world. Parents need support and there is no shame in seeking it,” she says.

The book Young Mental Health is currently available at all online and offline bookstores both as an e-book and paperback. The book is priced at Rs 399.

Read: Queries on mental health of kids triple during lockdown

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