Stereotypes: Studying psychology? Tum psycho ho kiya?
When you enter the field of psychology, the foremost thing that you learn is that there is a huge stigma associated with mental health and hence your profession. It’s quite easy for people to tease you that ‘after your studies, you will surely go mad’ or call you ‘psycho’ but only your fellow colleagues understand how hurtful it is. It’s not the teasing that puts you off but the sad way people perceive a psychologist or a psychiatrist.
However, does psychology only deals with people who are, for lack of a better word, ‘mad’ or mentally unstable? Many of the myths and perceptions that exist in society at large are wrong by a great margin. What people fail to understand is that we humans exist on two interacting planes: physical and mental. And as important as the physical well being of an individual is, so is the mental health, in order to lead a fully functioning and productive life.
To be physically fit and fine, what do we do? We follow the preventive measure given by our nutritionists or doctors and, in case of some serious kind of disorder, we consult them for treatment, spend all of our life-savings in order to get back to our routine and healthy life. In a similar manner, to be mentally healthy, we have to follow the directions of a psychologist or a psychiatrist and in case of any psychological change, we need to consult them so that maximum level of well being could be achieved.
The questions that now arise are that what really happens when a mental illness develops in individuals or their loved one? Do people really take help or encourage others for taking help? Are the measures taken quickly or people wait for the last possible moment until no other option remains? Sadly the answers to these questions are quite negative.
Researches constantly show that the prevalence rate of psychological disorders continues to increase but the ratio of people seeking professional help is at an all-time low – such behavior is very alarming. One of the contributing factors of this approach is lack of awareness regarding importance of mental health and this requires immediate attention. The other more important factor is the disregard for mental health and the huge stigma associated with it. For this reason the gap between prevalence of the diseases and help seeking attitude, also called ‘service gap’, continues to remain and is a huge matter of concern.
Ending my note I would say that, be brave. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Being afraid of people and the society will only restrain you from living your life fully and freely.
About the author: Sarwat Amin Rattani completed her A levels from Beaconhouse School System and is currently enrolled in the Psychology Bachelors Program at University of Karachi. She has been volunteering with Family Educational Services Foundation (FESF) and Aga Khan University along with voluntary teaching in the community (since 3 years).