What does mental health mean to you?

I don’t know how Australia deals with issues regarding mental health. But in a conservative society like Singapore, talking about mental health openly is still a taboo (relatively). In a typical Asian family, if you’re feeling down, you should bear with it and live life like usual; hide any negative emotions and portray a happy outlook.

What does mental health mean to you?

It means a lot to me because I lost my mother to depression. Nobody knew that she was unhappy, nobody knew that she would take such a rash action that would end her life.

Having lost a loved one to depression made me realise how important human interactions are in our everyday lives. But with social media replacing our physical social network, how can we be sure that we’re having sufficient social interactions that can help keep us sane? How do we know that our friends who are “liking” our statuses on Facebook are happy and contented with their lives?

I had the honour of speaking to Dr David Horgan, Honorary Psychiatrist at the Royal Melbourne Hospital, and founder of depression.com.au, and asked him some question regarding mental health and how their loved ones can help in the recovery process.

According to Dr Horgan, people suffering from depression and various mental illnesses would keep the illness to themselves because they think that they are a liability to their families and friends. They would think that they are completely worthless. By keeping their illness to themselves, they’re able to keep the stigma of weakness away from themselves.

While they could have acknowledged these negative thoughts themselves, they might never step out to seek help. Perhaps they’re seeing a psychiatrist; perhaps they’re on medication. Depression is an illness that’s always around the corner, ready to pounce on the mind when the tiniest stimuli arise.

“Usually people would go to the GP and describe symptoms of depression and that is when they’ll be diagnosed with depression.”

“Something is making modern life a lot more stressful, modern society is becoming more demanding, more ruthlessly competitive. When patients keep everything bottled up, it can lead to bigger problems like self harm,” said Dr Horgan.

That was probably what happened to my mother. I’ve always wondered what I could have done to help.

Dr Horgan’s amazing and extensive online database is also supplemented by a depression hotline. But how much do they help?

“Depression hotlines are there as a resource for patients. There’s hardly anything we can do to help over the phone. But we are able to provide recommendations and advise them of the possible options they can take.”

While some may say that social media has given rise to more connected network, I think it otherwise. We’re more alone than ever. Rather than a handwritten letter or a card, we can simply post our “sincere” wishes on their wall or tweet them a text rather than meeting up with each other for coffee.

10/10/2012 is world mental health day. But let’s ask a dear friend out for a chat over coffee, make the world a better place for someone. 🙂

Cheers guys!

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2 thoughts on “What does mental health mean to you?

  1. Thank you for this incredibly thoughtful post! I just wanted to say how much I agree with your point about social media making us less connected than ever. I often find myself feeling particularly isolated when I’m at home on Facebook, even though I should (technically) feel “more connected than ever.” Talking to someone on Facebook chat or receiving a wall post is no substitution for having a drink with a friend at the pub or just having coffee. I think it has something to do with the level of concentration it takes- i.e. it takes two seconds to post on someone’s wall, but a lot more effort to actually, physically catch up with someone so at the end of the day we’re putting less effort into our friendships, and that’s a sad thing.
    Unfortunately though, social media is the way of the future, so we need to figure out a way of using it “mindfully” (I recommend this article http://www.tricycle.com/feature/ten-mindful-ways-use-social-media).
    P.S. I love the look of your blog!

  2. I totally agree with you. Sometimes I find myself checking facebook more than I should. I’m constantly checking the newsfeed for new updates or checking my notifications to find out if anyone posted on my wall (Pathetic. I know).
    And I love the article! “It’s common to snap a picture with your phone and upload it to Facebook or email it to a friend. This overlaps the experience of being in a moment and sharing it. It also minimizes intimacy…” So true! It’s scary how whenever I’m out with my friends for brunch, they’re all busy snapping pictures of the food and uploading it on instagram (typical asians). But I find that act really selfish because it seems like we’ve all forgotten how to talk to each other in real life. 😦

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