Mental health has come to the forefront during the COVID-19 pandemic, but the stigma around it continues to exist across countries and ages. While some people have access to mental health resources, many continue to live with undiagnosed mental illnesses. We asked people of different ages across the world how they perceive mental health from the lens of their background and upbringing.
Mahak Agrawal, 17, India
I think mental health is peace of mind and being stress-free, anxiety-free and all that. I meditate, write, dance — those things make me happy. I also make it a point to talk to my best friend at the end of the day. I rely heavily on YouTube videos and books for information about mental health. I have read books like “Most and More” by T.T. Rangarajan and “The Power of Your Subconscious Mind” by Joseph Murphy.
We don’t have a therapist at school but our school principal is a psychologist, even though we have the option of speaking to her but most students find that intimidating. However, if parents are involved it’s easier. In grade 10, I used to go to a psychologist because I had issues with anxiety, and I would faint before appearing for my exams because of the pressure to do well.
I think it’s very important to take care of our mental health especially at this age, perhaps even more than our physical health, because we see everyone running a rat race and are trying to imitate it chasing the idea of ‘success.’
Tomi Wale, 28, Nigeria
I was down most of 2017. I remember crying as the clock struck 12 on New Year’s Eve in 2017. Halfway through 2018, I found a therapist on Instagram who took me through an eight-week program. My life has not remained the same since.
Since then, I have trained my mind to entertain a thought without necessarily accepting it. I cleaned up my social media feeds and filled it up with more positive posts. I take each day as a gift and see the previous day as gone; it has helped me travel lighter and open myself up to opportunities. Recent deaths of close friends reinforced a part of me to travel lighter. I also take sleep and [exercising] seriously.
Mental health is still stigmatized. I had a conversation with a friend who said people don’t need to see a therapist, and at the end of the conversation he ended up telling me that he needed one. That’s what we need, the willingness to listen more and the ability to accept people for who they are and who they are becoming.
Manie Lo, 33, Hong Kong
According to me, mental health is a positive mindset, and a good relationship with friends and family because of it. To release my negative or bad feelings, I take deep breaths to free myself from those thoughts.
I think now people are keener to address their mental health challenges, and will sometimes go to the doctor [psychotherapist] as well for it because they want to become better. But there isn’t information about mental health in my culture at all. It isn’t as widely discussed.
In Hong Kong, a work-life balance is very important. Everyone here works long hours and exhausts themselves. They usually end up ignoring their personal life. We need to take time to relax, sleep, take a break, and engage in social life. A lot of us work for ten hours a day, six days a week.
Jasmine Mehta, 50, India
I understand mental health to be that which helps me make decisions in adverse situations. I try to do that too, analyzing day-to-day situations with the right perspective in the right context.
To keep my mental health in check, I sing. I am a musician by profession and I do things that I love. This gives me a corner in my life to feel abundance and gratitude, which gives me satisfaction towards my inner self. I like to share knowledge and I believe in the supreme power. I am not a God-fearing person, I love God. I love the universe. And I want to share this with the people around me. I don’t just think positive, I believe positively. I do affirmations.