The Covid-19 pandemic has inadvertently brought to light another pandemic which otherwise remains buried with on the dark side of our personality and we continue to suffer silently deep within while putting up a brave face to the world. Yes, you got it right, we are talking about depression or mental illness. A demanding, hectic, and tiring lifestyle of urban and megacities is pushing an ever-increasing number of people on the verge of mental collapse. Forced quarantine or stay-home protocol to flatten the Covid-19 curve has brought us face-to-face and compelled us to concede to the fact that though we are trying to maintain our physical health, on the mental side all is not well. Reports of depression, anxiety, stress, low energy level, mood swings, suicide, domestic violence were rife all over the media. The pandemic of COVID-19 has brought this issue of mental health under the spotlight. The nationwide lockdown was announced on 25th March, as a preventive measure against Covid-19. This lockdown turned out to be such an overwhelming experience because of its intensity and spread that we didn’t know what to do with all-time at hour hand. The lockdown not only took away our freedom of movement but also greatly restricted engagement and interaction with the society. Usually, we remain busy with one thing or other, we remain oblivious of ourselves but this unexpected situation left us with a huge amount of time to reflect upon ourselves and lo, we find so many issues with ourselves. The fact of the matter is we find ourselves very unhappy when we are with ourselves. Otherwise, this lockdown would have been a joyful experience for all although it is a statement of fact for some.
The mental state of affairs of the nation came to such a scenario that the government of India, despite its feverish engagement simultaneously at various front had to take cognizance of this silent pandemic. As a result, we see that the Ministry of Human Resource Development(MHRD) has come up with an initiative named ‘Manodarpan’ to address the issue.
The purpose of this article is not to provide a quick fix solution to this problem, rather it is an effort to investigate, understand, analyse circumstances and social dynamics which gives rise to the phenomena called depression or mental illness.
A cursory glance at a child would reflect his or her regular mood swings and change in interests, their whims and it is not taken very seriously for this is natural for a child but when this behavior persists and carries on till adolescence or to adulthood it adversely affects academic performance and in extreme cases, individuals even commit suicide. If we care to dispassionately investigate the cause which led them to take up this drastic step to end their life we shall find that the seed of frustration has started germinating long before they decided to end it all. Recently junior doctor from India’s leading medical institute All India Institutes of Medical Science(AIIMS), New Delhi, who was working as a Psychiatrist committed suicide due to depression on the 10th of July by jumping from the 10th floor of a hostel in AIIMS.[i]Robin McLaurin Williams, an American actor, and comedian who entertained us for years committed suicide by hanging himself.[ii]Our emerging superstar of Bollywood Sushant Singh Rajput did the same. And this is how vibrant lives come to an end all of a sudden. According to the World Health Organisation(WHO), eight lack people die each year globally from suicide(one death every 40 seconds)[iii] of these 135,000 (17%) are residents of India, a nation with 17.5% of world population. By the time you would have finished this article six to seven people would have committed suicide. According to America’s National Institute of Mental Health website nearly one in every five U.S. adults live with a mental illness (46.6 million in 2017).[iv]Among the adolescents 2.3 million adolescents aged 12 to 17 had at least one major depressive episode with severe impairment. This number represents 9.4% of the U.S. population aged 12 to 17. [v]Suicide is also another chief public health concern. It is among the leading causes of death in the United States. While looking at Japan, suicide is considered a major social issue. In 2016, the country had the sixth-highest suicide rate in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) at 15.2 per 100,000 persons.[vi]
Persistent sense of self insufficiency is killing us. We are never satisfied with ourselves, neither what we have. We are always eager to be somebody else and yearning to acquire things that others have. This persistent sense of dissatisfaction with ourselves and the condition that we are in is the root cause of mostly all mental issues. Sudden affluence may lead to unrestrained freedom leading to imbalance. We do not know what to do with newfound wealth. A person driving an expensive vehicle can fire a bullet on toll tax collectors for just rupees 40 to 100, and this type of road rage incidents are part of daily life these days. We call it a social problem, but is it that the mental issues manifesting as social evil? Maybe we have to rethink . While, use of drugs and other chemical substances, jealousy, being over-ambitious, ever-elusive social status can reinforce this trend in our society. We can’t admire ourselves for what we are, but feel sorry for what we are not. Either we are apprised that we can do everything or informed at that we are not good enough for anything. Why should parents compare their children with anyone? Let them be themselves. Each one of us is unique and we have to understand and make it our strength our leading force and the starting line.
Each one of us must find our creative expression of life. The life force to express ourselves creatively, which might not find worth in the economic sphere but will allow us to devote energy towards that. One effort which we have to make is that we as a society have to create an environment where creativity is encouraged irrespective of economic worth. Because we cannot allow money to be our wholesome God, the corporate will become the priest and the human soul will be sacrificed. So each one of us must find our creative expression, and eventually the goal of our life. So this is one tangible idea from where we will start thinking, feeling, and acting towards our mission of life, will commit lesser mistakes than what we would have done and give an end to our moment to moment life.
To enter this arena, yoga, cultural and spiritual organisations can help an individual. In this new social order yoga is coming up in a big way but it is not just for physical wellbeing but for chit vritti nirodha: Yoga is cessation of the distraction of mind. The ancient sage Maharishi Patanjali defines Yoga as stilling the fluctuations of the mind. Cultural and spiritual organisations like Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, Ramakrishna Mission, Vivekananda Kendra, Kanyakumari, Art of Living, Isha Foundation, Chinmaya Mission, Patanjali Yogpeeth, Gayatri Pariwar among others can help us to achieve our mission and purpose of life. They are trying to find meaning of life in an organised way, their volunteers are on a journey others are standing by. Although we will all reach the same goal but it just won’t happen by being passive.
Writer–Nikhil Yadav is a State Youth Head at Vivekananda Kendra, Uttar Prant . He is also nominated Member of Indian Yoga Association, Delhi Chapter. He obtained his Masters in History from the University Of Delhi and is pursuing COP in Vedic Culture from Jawaharlal Nehru University.