Mental illness is a global threat, which is not always obvious as it is veiled and shows up through symptoms which are not easily identified. Often the suffer feels ignored or shunned by society and the stigma associated with it doesn’t allow them to speak up.
She was diagnosed with depression at the age of 36, but Indian Revenue Service (IRS) officer Shubhrata Prakash fought with it and penned down her story which has helped inspire others to come forward and speak about with their own struggles.
Her book which is titled ‘The D Word: A Survivor’s Guide To Depression’ highlights the topic of mental illness that has long been difficult to discuss here in India.
In this interview, she talks about her journey battling the depression. She is equally honest about what keeps her going, and why it is important to speak up about the condition.
You are a depression survivor, what do you think has changed? Is there more awareness?
Compared to the scenario 10 years back, yes there is a little more awareness. But it isn’t really much. Mental illness is just as real as a physical illness. Awareness is really required but it’s not enough. Structures to address the condition need to be in place. Treatment options need to be easily available. The number of psychiatrists, psychologists and social support is missing.
Has blogging proved to be therapeutic for you?
I used to write while I was in school and college. Through blogging, I could reach a wider audience. I can’t exactly say that blogging gave me a cathartic experience, but it was definitely therapeutic. The book came through as a result of the blogs I had written while struggling with depression. I still write blogs for mental health platforms. I am encouraged to write them as it could be helping someone out there who is reading it.
What were the most difficult moments when you struggled with depression?
The years from 2014-2016 were difficult for me. There were days where I couldn’t get out of bed. Food would have to be brought to me. Nothing is worse than that. During that time, I had almost lost my will to live.
How did you manage to never give up?
My husband was a one-person support system. I had two children, and I wanted to live for them. One day could be bad, but the next day could be better.
What is your advice for people facing mental health issues?
It’s okay, not to be okay. It’s alright. You are not flawed or broken, People suffer from diabetes and hypertension, they can be treated. If a physical illness is treatable, we all need to realise even mental illnesses can be treated. Look for help, don’t lose hope. Keep going forward. No two people are the same, see what works best for you. If today doesn’t go well, learn to live for tomorrow.
Why is it important for people to speak up?
The more we talk about it. The more people will hear you. When you have a physical illness, people will help you, they will take you for a walk, they will make you feel better. But with mental illness, there is a stigma attached to it. People flee from it as they do not understand it. People with mental illnesses have a lot of stigmatising things which are said to them. Stigma adds to mental illness.
They have a double fight to go through. They have to fight the condition as well as the stigma. Talking about mental illness is necessary.
How to approach people who are suffering from a mental illness?
There is no specific answer to this question which is asked often. The stigma makes it difficult sometimes for people with a mental illness to accept their condition. One has to figure out how to approach a particular person. However, being non-judgmental and cautious helps. Perhaps, once stigma gets reduced conversations about mental health will become easier.