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Mental health: A Joke

Auruba Raki

A horse and a rabbit walked into a bar. The bartender, a goose, asked how they were doing. The horse said she was depressed. The rabbit replied, “Well, don’t be sad. You’re the mare of the city.” The horse laughed and exclaimed, “Oh, thank you for getting it out of my hare. I am not depressed anymore.”

The above story is not collected from real life events. Any resemblance to any character, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
But it’s also not a very inaccurate depiction of mental health in our society, where we deflect the conversation in any other direction whenever the question of our mental health pops up, where we literally make puns as bad as the aforementioned ones to laugh it off.

As unhealthy as coping mechanisms can get, it is incumbent on the society as a whole to regard mental health issues with more severity and concern. Emotions cannot be sidetracked by jokes. You may be affronted by the title, but there are people, not few in number, who attach as much concern to mental soundness- their own or others’- as they would an annoying fly.

Nevertheless, these issues are being addressed now more than ever as the current generation has more scopes to reach out for help from non-profit organizations as well as websites to consult psychiatrists. Given enlightenment, even the prejudiced ones are thinking out of the box. They are allowing time to heal wounds, old and new.

With the fierce competition of survival only increasing every day in the current capitalistic world, the stress and striving for perfection that come hand in hand are only causing more of a decline of mental health. Every person, from their very early years, is expected to ace each lesson. The parents stamp on their child what their chosen profession is for the child while it’s still an infant. As they grow up, the person has to struggle to fulfill each demand of their parents, whether it is being the class skipper or exhibiting prodigious qualities or learning musical instruments faster or performing on stage and whatnot. Amid all these expectations and pressure, the child loses its individuality, and then as a grown up, they have to grapple to find themselves again. Some people never do; they live as an imprint of what their authoritative figures were like.

Not to mention the ugly aspects of teenage that overshadow the beautiful ones. It’s a time when we begin to understand a lot of things, and all is well except… higher perception comes with a price. We begin to see the world for what it truly is- unfair and cutthroat and unsparing. An existential crisis that plunges us into depression. To deal with it, we come up with unhealthy coping mechanisms like eating disorders, binge-watching, emotional distancing, self-harm, insomnia, sleeping problems and so many more. There are productive mechanisms as well which are certainly helpful like learning a new skill or a language, or spending time singing, dancing, writing, painting, playing; but if you look closely, you’d find that their own personal dejection is embedded in their works. It’s not that all anyone ever feels is misery, but happiness isn’t the feeling that leaves angry red deep-seated scars.

And where does that leave us? It largely affects our future relationships and adulthood negatively. Those who succumb to the perennial fall into darkness, become bitter and toxic— to their own self as well as others. Life, as short as it is, tastes horribly bland. They go as far as to turn to suicide attempts because they believe there’s no salvation. Only the most withstanding of us hold on stubbornly to a pillar in the middle of the storms. The ones who choose to smile and stay sanguine despite all the ordeals of life are indeed inspiring.

As if our personal problems weren’t enough, 2020 is definitely not the easiest year we’ve had in our lifetime. It is as if a disaster prone year; one tidal surge following the last as they hit the coasts of our lives one by one. Who knew we would live to see a global pandemic? When you’re not allowed to hug or touch or shake hands, when you’re forbidden to even step out of your own house at your own risk, how can you expect anyone’s mental health to remain sane and stable anymore? The bustle of normal life came to a staggering halt in the advent of COVID-19. No office, no school, no tests. Sounds amazing, right? At first it was a much-needed respite for many—a break from the general taxing life. But now, months into lockdown, life is stagnant. Gray. Sluggish. Ridden with uncertainty, anxiety and panic. No one knows when the pandemic will end, if it ends. No one knows who would be the next prey of this ultramicroscopic virus.

In these harrowing times, mental wellbeing is of peak importance. It needs to be acknowledged, addressed and taken care of. So yes, we can’t heal our psychological issues— only smother it— with jokes and memes and puns.
Mental health? Not a joke.

The writer, a cynic, is the head of the InclusionX Writing Team.

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