I feel as parents and educators, the best gift we can give children is to contribute to their positive mental health.
Here is an article I wrote for The Swaddle about the how and when of therapy for children.
Would love to hear your comments and feedback about it.
As I’m sitting down after, listening to Deepika Padukone’s interview on NDTV, about her personal experience of depression, I’m moved to the point where tears are rolling down my eyes and I feel an immense sense of respect, admiration for her.
I look back at my life as a Psychologist, where clients chose to trust me with their deepest vulnerable selves, I realize how most of them have moved on to a better space, where they are more in charge, have dealt with past baggage and chosen to turn their vulnerabilities into their strength. The interview was a reminder of how some clients have said exactly the same words that Deepika narrated.
Sometimes depression or anxiety leads a silent life, within us. We choose not to acknowledge it, as we believe it as a phase that would pass. As the Psychologist Guy Winch says — We cannot just shake off the depression, it needs to be handled and managed. Most clients show immense resilience and inherent strength that comes to life as we begin to deal with the layers of depression in therapy. A client whom I worked with, a few years back, told me how depression was a blessing in disguise. It reminded her how there were ways to fight it and choose a life where one is more in touch with oneself.
I’m often asked how I can distance myself from all the pain and sadness that clients bring in to therapy. The answer is quite simple actually — my clients also bring a deeper sense of hope, resilience and an ability to fight back, which makes me admire the human spirit even in moments when they are fragile.
We all feel vulnerable, and awareness of this vulnerability is our strength. Our strength to heal, to find meaning in moments of despair, and most importantly, as Deepika did, bare one’s personal journey so as to heal many others.
Sometimes I feel there are so many stories of pain, struggle, hope and resilience buried deep within me.These are tales, that clients have trusted me with and they are sacred.I’m sure clients wonder,what do I do with them.They continue to live a silent life within me and no one has access to them.I remember,when I was in college,a friend of me would tell me how I love listening to stories.Somehow in psychotherapy, I do that.When people ask me, what do I do,I say, I listen.I create a facilitative environment where people can share and be themselves. It’s a privelege to be trusted.Sometimes,when clients walk in the room, with their pain,all I can see is the strong will power to recover and hope.I see courage that each client brings in,every time, they choose to share their deepest buried secret.I owe gratitude to them and that’s why I let the story lie deep within the recesses of my mind and soul.
Today when my daughter was playing in the garden and I was watching over her, I suddenly heard a boy of about 6 or 7 years scream out loudly to call his mother. After the boy called couple of times and his mother didn’t pay attention to him, he shouted loudly and said “If you don’t come right now Mom, I would kill myself”. ( conversation was in Hindi).
I couldn’t believe what I heard. I approached the mother, who by now was standing with her young boy and scolding him. I asked the mother about where he had heard this and the mother said she had no clue. When I asked the young boy,he mentioned how on a reality show, he had heard a participant say this line.
Just yesterday twice on Indian sitcom, I heard the characters,speak about self-harm and the desire to end their lives. These serials run anytime between 7 to 9 pm – primetime slots where children are likely to watch television. I consciously monitor TV timings for my daughter, but I have come to realise that I can’t have complete TV control.
At a time, where suicide rates are increasing among children and young people, are we glorifying death? Is it right to promote suicide on television and portray it as the only alternative when we find life meaningless? I don’t remember hearing or knowing about suicide till I was in my teens. English shows are censored beyond recognition in India, but does the Indian Censor Board set the same standard on Hindi channels? It is our responsibility to create resilience in children set examples by using characters who have a will and desire to bounce back. As a psychologist and a parent, I monitor and limit TV hour to just children’s cartoons, but I can’t control everything that’s been played on television.
In Indian settings, many people have 1 television and all family members watch the same serial. The very thought that television is introducing the term suicide and portraying it is heart wrenching. I know I can’t control what my daughter sees on television, but I can at least choose how she sees it and what meaning she makes of it, by talking and listening to her.
Research shows how suicides result from ‘CopyCat ‘ Phenomenon.Therefore it is in the interest of children and adults that suicide is not glorified
Somewhere deep in the corner of all our hearts lies sadness. A little criticism,a life event, sense of rejection and sometimes the lack of inherent meaning of life triggers it all. Then all of a sudden,sadness chooses to reside in us,slowly becoming the permanent resident in our body.So where do we draw the line? Can we choose or learned helplessness it is? What you do with your sadness is a personal choice. I drown my sadness in writing and some drown it in running , exercising.The trick is to find healthy adaptive ways to be mindful of the sadness and yet allow it to pass by engaging with life.Sometimes choose to substitute sadness with pleasant memories and remind ourselves gently how resilient we are. Remember that sadness distorts us and our self esteem.I’m reminded of a song by Coke Studio,Madari Madari, we need not supress the emotions, but we can train the mind to happiness.The key to training our mind,lies within.
I started working as a therapist about 10 years back,not sure if the world even needs therapists.Now on the World Mental Health day I feel that all of us need to pause,look within and introspect about where we are heading. There are mental disorders and then there are lifestyle issues such as Digital addiction,Burnout, lack of resilience, the illusion of the social networking. Stop and ask yourself, if you have nurtured your mind and soul in a while, if not do it now. Life can wait.
Therapy can work best in environments where we choose to look at people beyond the labels of mental illness.