The Mental Health Taboo

So yesterday night my sister and I decided to watch a film. We were browsing through Netflix when I stumbled upon a new-ish Bollywood movie called Dear Zindagi. My hard-to-please sister typically hates Bollywood. But I’d already watched this one before with a friend, and so I knew that the storyline was one that she would actually appreciate. So I quickly rustled up some popcorn and hot chocolate *to sweeten the deal* and pressed play before she realised what was happening. No word of a lie, she loved it *yay me!* 😀

The film centres around the life of a twenty-something year old city girl named Kaira. With a small circle of close friends, she’s a closet romantic who somehow always manages to get in her own way when it comes to relationships with guys. Add to that a bunch of deep-rooted issues with her family, she’s a sensitive protagonist who lives life with her guard up. Her internal struggles cause her to haphazardly snap at those closest to her but she can’t seem to figure out what’s actually causing this disconnect. So she decides to visit Dr Jehangir Khan, a ‘brain doctor’ or clinical psychologist. The rest of the film depicts how this unconventional therapist helps Kaira to untangle her conflicting thoughts and feelings until she’s finally able to put to bed an unresolved past trauma that had been sabotaging all of her relationships as a young adult (FYI that was not a spoiler, I promise).

Not one of your typical fluffy ‘boy meets girl’ Bollywood plotlines, I’d definitely recommend this film of self-discovery to my fellow millennials, but also to the older generations. We could all take away a golden nugget of insight or two from this story, such as:

  1. The fact that it’s ok to choose the easy option sometimes.
  2. That you can look perfectly fine on the outside and still be torn up on the inside.
  3. Happy/sad/confused, always express yourself.
  4. Cut yourself some slack.
  5. Talk to your parents.

But most importantly, the film draws attention to the largely neglected topic of mental health.

For years and years, it’s been acceptable to let people know when you’re going to the doctors for a broken wrist, appendicitis, or kidney failure. But when it comes to seeking professional help to resolve mental health issues, for some reason everyone seems to go quiet. All you hear are whispers. The word ‘crazy’ comes to mind. Going to see a therapist is seen as an EMERGENCY last resort. But even at breaking point, most of us would still say that it’s unnecessary, we don’t need it.

However, the truth is that most of us do, scratch that, all of us do! Depression, anxiety and stress are real-life ongoing issues and illnesses that all of us have to deal with. So why do we make them such taboo topics to talk about? Why do we opt to hide our pain and showcase a fake, invincible exterior instead? Why can’t we just accept the fact that we’re not always ok, and that’s ok!

It’s all well and good having a fully functioning, Greek god style body, but if you don’t feel like your mental health is in tip-top condition, what good are your biceps and six pack? Mental health is just as important as physical health. And maybe if we opted to ‘see someone’ regularly, some of those explosive outbursts of frustration that we all experience from time to time could be avoided.

One thing that I love about the main character, Kaira, in the film is that she’s not presented as being some stereotypical, erratic looney toon. Yes, she suffers from mental health issues, but she’s not depicted as being CRAZY, she’s just conflicted. She’s a normal girl overwhelmed by real life issues: shock horror! And so the notion of her seeking professional help isn’t conveyed as being such a big deal in film, but rather a logical solution to a problem that she is facing and can’t seem to solve on her own.

Therapists can provide an objective voice of reason when we’re feeling confused or overwhelmed. They can facilitate a safe environment where we’re able to feel less defensive and more open. And they do say that it’s sometimes easier to talk about your problems to a complete stranger than to somebody you know. Perhaps it’s time to consider the fact that there may actually be some truth to that statement.

I’ve never actually been to see a therapist myself, but if circumstances required me to seek professional help for my mental health, I’d be all for it. I’ll happily put my life in the hands of the nearest ‘brain doctor’ if/when I reach a point where talking to my closest friends and writing blogs no longer keep me sane!

Kaira’s character also demonstrates how bottling things up and avoiding confrontation are surefire ways to allow your pain to eat you up from the inside. Being the ‘strong’ silent type is self-destructive; at the end of the day the only person we hurt by keeping mum is ourselves.

Contrary to popular belief, there’s absolutely no shame in voicing our stresses, tensions and worries; it’s ok to not be ok sometimes. We should never be made to feel too embarrassed to admit when we’re struggling and need help. A problem shared is a problem halved, right?

So again I’ll repeat, watch Dear Zindagi if you have a spare 2.5 hours in your day and don’t mind reading Hindi to English subtitles. It’s worth it, trust me—plus there aren’t any random, gaudy song and dance numbers, I swear!

The film will essentially encourage you to muster the courage to face your demons, or else you’ll run the risk of allowing your past to sabotage a potentially beautiful present and future.

Amen to that SRK!


11 thoughts on “The Mental Health Taboo

  1. It’s a subject our community does well at concealing and not tackling head on, appreciate your post is not about that. I havent seen the movie as sometimes skeptical whether well known Bollywood actors can work outside their comfort zone, only handful can, but nonetheless I will try and catch this one.

    1. You’re right with regards to the Indian community mental health is still very hush hush, but to be honest I think that’s true of society’s attitude as a whole too. I wouldn’t say that any community has outwardly expressed a real understanding/appreciation of the importance of mental health, there are just the odd few groups of people out there who get it. Hence why we need to have these conversations and keep a dialogue going, to show people that it’s normal, not taboo.
      Nevertheless, I would definitely recommend the film if you’ve got a free afternoon/evening, my sister usually hates Hindi films but she actually enjoyed this one!

  2. We don’t have actual psychologists or psychiatrists ,we have bunch of money hungry so called doctors ,who actually goes by books and rules ,they don’t know what actual psychology is ,psychology is art of life learnt through life .

    1. I agree that much of psychology is learnt through your own life experiences, however sometimes people do need a helping hand and that’s where the professionals can step in. I wouldn’t be too quick to rule all therapists out as being money hungry, there are a lot of doctors out looking to help people and make a difference. Corruption is real but there’s always scope to find well-intentioned people. 🙂

  3. Finally,The truth has been spoken 🙂 Mental Health, If I am not wrong I would say, is more important that Physical Health. you can feel physiologically sick say have fever, running nose,head ache etc., yet feel confident and better if you have a resilient mind which thinks ‘yay,the body just needs some tinkering and rejuvenation.everything else is just fine’. But on the other hand,when one is psychologically sick despite having a perfect physical health, I tell you from my experience-Every frigging thing seems to fall apart and you feel that the whole world is nothing but just a empty black hole. Whew, you have nicely put it up. *sighs and smiles*

    1. I completely agree with you Harinin, mental health is often more important than physical health, the power of the mind is real! Definitely watch the film, if you haven’t already, I’m sure it’s one that you’d enjoy! Thanks for stopping by, I appreciate it. 😀

  4. It’s been awhile since I’ve read your blog Sharan – I’ve now made it a point to check my email regularly, so I won’t miss any of your posts!

    Great to see you championing the cause for mental health awareness, kudos for that. SRK is actually one of my favourite actors, and I only gave this movie a miss because I read a bad review. You’ll be glad to know that I’ll check it out soon only because of your blog. I could do with a little bit of soul-searching 🙂

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