Mental Health Special: Happy Parents, Happy Families

Mental Health Special: Happy Parents, Happy Families

Lurking tensions surface during lockdown

Presenting Nidhi Sharma’s views on the occasion of the World Mental Health Day. Nidhi is a multiple time marathoner, enjoys outdoor sports, draws inspiration from mythology and tutors Masters’ students of psychology. She is also the Founder and Principal Counsellor & Coach for Bon Impressions, a counselling and coaching company.

BizNewsConnect: What are the main causes of mental illness?

Nidhi Sharma: There is no single cause for mental illness. A number of factors can contribute to risk for mental illness, such as;

  • Our genes and family history
  • Our life experiences, such as stress or a history of abuse, especially if they happen in childhood
  • Biological factors such as chemical imbalances in the brain
  • A traumatc brain injury 
  • A mother's exposure to viruses or toxic chemicals while pregnant
  • Use of alcohol or recreational drugs 
  • Having a serious medical condition like cancer
  • Having few friends, and feeling lonely or isolated
  • Emotional experiences, stressful events

BNC: Is it hereditary?

Nidhi: It can be, I personally don’t believe in heredity

BNC: Is bipolar disorder associated with mental illness?

Nidhi: Bipolar is a mental disorder, illness is a rather hard term, people are fully functional however due to the disorder they experience extreme mood swings

BNC: During COVID triggered lockdown, like many other illnesses, mental health issues are also ignored. What is your take? Have patients or their relatives contacting you online?

Nidhi: Yes, this current situation has triggered and brought to surface the emotional challenges that were lurking under the surface and were ignored due to stigma attached to mental health. There is a sense of loss of freedom, lack of privacy, lack of release on anxiety, fear of the future etc. that the situation has brought about, which is leading to stress, anxiety, panic, and in extreme cases violence. There is 30% increase in physical abuse in India during this period. Yes, I have had clients connecting online seeking counselling support

BNC: What kind of mental health issues have cropped up during the lockdown?

Nidhi: The impact of the lockdown is likely to be heaviest on those who are alone, poor, already psychologically burdened, or out of the mainstream.

Anxiety, Panic, Mood swings, Anger, Irritability, Depression, Increased aggression, PTS are some of the mental health issues that are being seen. Sometime mental health issues manifest in physical issues, acidity, headache, palpitation, stomach ache, body ache, fatigue etc.

BNC: Any new issues? Any new learnings?

Nidhi: Sexual minorities, which are already excluded from most mainstream Indian communities are seen to have a higher impact as they are already isolated. There are also high levels of depression among frontline healthcare workers and people in communities with high infection rates, like those who live in unhygienic environment. Social ostracization fear is also being highly felt.

BNC: What are the age groups that are having these problems during lockdown?

Nidhi: All age groups. Every breathing human is a social animal and community dweller, except perhaps those who are born just before or after lockdown, we require privacy, personal space and above all mental safety

BNC: What kind of precautions that we must take? – Families and those with pre-existing record of mental illness?

Nidhi: Love, unconditional acceptance, empathy… primarily be human. We need these qualities more than ever as those who are already disturbed and anxious, are more so now.

BNC: Man is a social animal. Without social contacts he gets mad. Do agree with this? How does one get over this?

Nidhi: I totally agree, if this was not the case we wouldn’t have the mental health challenges. There is a sense of lace of freedom and safety, both intrinsic to human wellbeing, and considering this the situation makes it difficult for us.

One can never “get-over” mental disorders, these have to be managed, just like alcoholism, so seeking professional support is the only way to “get over” or “deal’ with the internal turmoil and situation. Just like when we have stomach infection we readily go to a doctor, when we are stressed or anxious we need to get to a counsellor, who can then help with tools that can manage the issue and go past them

BNC: Any diet recommendations?

Well, eating sattvic food is helpful, as it is nourishing and calming. Fruits and vegetables, drinking water is known to aid our well-being

BNC: My favourite question: Does watching noisy news channels lead to mental disturbance! Most important – how is it impacting children? With online classes, many parents are unable to spend time and even if they do it grudgingly. Doesn’t this create tension both parents and children. Result: Children unable to focus. Are we treating children as commodities?

Nidhi: I have very strong views on parenting … which I might not be able to articulate here very well. It’s not the lockdown that makes parents treat children as commodities...most have been doing so even before. Parents who are conscientious are conscientious in all situations.

Children however are more resilient, flexible and adaptable, they are fearless unless adults tell them otherwise or they experience a trauma, hence I believe if they are treated with affection and responsibility, they will adapt better and go on with their lives happily.

Parents are stressed and hence they stress their kids.

If we can get parents to be more relaxed, more mindful, we will have happier kids, pandemic or not…

BNC:  One more question cropped up while talking to people: Do pregnancy/delivery related hormonal changes led to mental disturbance? What care needs to be taken

Nidhi: Pregnancy is known to result into post partem depression. Again, the only care for any mental health challenge is Love, Affection and above all unconditional acceptance and support. We need to see the person and not the challenge or the disorder.

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