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Education key to breaking mental health taboo

Education key to breaking mental health taboo

In the era of networks and technology, human beings are thriving in various ways. However, when it comes to mental health, particularly in Nepali society, everyone either wants to twist the topic or feels too shy to talk about it. And those who talk about it usually delve into the negatives. Why do people hesitate to talk about mental health? Why is stigma attached to the subject? I have been asking people about it for seven years. As a psychologist and founder of the mental health clinic PICS NEPAL, my job is to help people overcome their mental health issues. But the irony is even my own family is hesitant to openly discuss the topic of mental health. There might be various reasons, mainly a lack of education or awareness.

The word education is a process of enlightening people, from darkness to light, zero to everything. In other words, it empowers people with practical skills and knowledge. Imagine villages transformed by roads and airports built by engineers—a testament to the transformative power of education. Similarly, education can illuminate the darkness surrounding mental health. Yet, our current education system fails to prioritize this vital subject. Every family wants to make their child an engineer, a pilot, doctor, or a banker. However, nobody wants to make their child a counselor, psychologist, or psychotherapist. Although people are being educated and have all the facilities from the road to the airport, they still haven’t changed their mindset about mental health.

Changing the public’s mindset is also related to the nation’s education system. If everything has been achieved through education, then why not the perception of individuals? But the primary thing is it should be on the priority list of the government. If a government can change the mindset of voters towards a political party within five years, then why not about mental health? Nothing changes overnight, but if it is in a will list, nothing can stop it. The viewpoint towards mental health, a crazy state, being unconscious, psychosis, loss of control, furious, abnormality, and peculiar behaviors, even if it’s because of sinful activities by their parents or grandparents in some places or a god’s actions against your behavior in some areas, are common in the society. But mental health is quite different than the way people have been assuming. It is a state of well-being in which people can work regularly, help their communities and effectively overcome their daily life stressors. This is a bitter truth, but I found a similar understanding among all the so-called educated people regarding mental health issues. They see it as a state of madness, crazy, and psychosis that cannot be treated. Immediately, questions arise: Do they even have basic knowledge about mental health? What have they studied in their school/ college?

Is education far from the basics of health, or is it simply the ignorance of basic knowledge? A bunch of questions arise when I see the current scenario of our country. In my opinion, it’s not only people’s negligence but also the education system. Our basic education system has to cover health education at its primary level to make people conscious of their health, specifically their mental health. The school curriculum must be reformed. It needs to be practical, useful, and relevant.

Hundreds of thousands of youths are suffering from mental health disorders. According to the national report of government 2077, the burden of mental health among non-communicable diseases is almost one-fifth. People struggle each day to survive, around 20 per day, but can’t; the suicide rate has increased over the last couple of years.

Mental health matters a lot, but the government education system teaches something different in school. To become competent and robust enough to cope with everyday life stressors, one should be informed earlier. School curricula should teach today’s kids about their minds, thoughts, and behavior. Education doesn’t always mean teaching complicated equations and complex word meanings. It should also teach children ways to fight, cope, and overcome the everyday stressors, which could help them lead a happy and healthy life. '

Teaching in school about mental health will help an individual at a greater level and create awareness in the family. The child will talk about mental health and will do homework on mental health; they will be obliged to teach their families about mental health. It will minimize the stigma and prejudice regarding mental health, which will ultimately lead to easy access to mental health as physical health.

Sometimes, we talk about a big topic but miss the small one that has a more significant impact. Let’s initiate a talk about mental health at school, in the workplace, in coffee shops, in the film industry, and in business. Until and unless we talk about it openly in different places, I don’t think we can create awareness regarding mental health.

The role of the media is also crucial to create positive debate about mental health. Media has the power to shape public discourse. Instead of sensationalizing individual cases, it should focus on normalizing mental health conversations. Open discussions and expert opinions disseminated through various media channels can break down existing stigmas and encourage individuals to seek help.

So, let’s all spread positive messages to boost the self-esteem and confidence among those in need—and I believe everybody needs it. We all have a mind (psyche) that controls and regulates our thoughts and imaginations; we might be in trouble at any point, so we all need to take care of our mental health.

The author is counseling psychologist and founder of PICS NEPAL: A place for mental health and psychosocial well-being


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