When attempting to articulate the meaning of mental health in today's world, I find myself lost. The sheer complexity and fast-paced nature of our modern society can make it challenging to grasp the essence of mental well-being.
As a young person, I find myself caught between two extremes. On the one hand, I am exposed to an abundance of recreational and unnecessary information through social media platforms. The constant swiping, clicking, liking, and commenting contribute to an information overload. On the other hand, the media also presents me with significant challenges such as climate change and gender awareness, where young adults are actively discussing and addressing these issues. However, I often feel stuck between these two worlds. The implosion of information from social media is overwhelming, and it is difficult to discern what is truly important.
Additionally, the political atmosphere further influences the narrative, shaping what is considered important in terms of market trends, culture, and ideologies.
Amidst this chaotic interplay of information, I cannot help but wonder how other young minds manage to navigate through this maelstrom. The overwhelming dominance of social media has distorted the information landscape, blurring the boundaries between illusion, fantasy, and reality. Each day, I encounter numerous real-life instances that underscore the impact and pressure these factors exert on our lives, the most common being a utopian lifestyle that one displays and notices on social media increasing a feeling of uneasiness. Despite our awareness of their effects, finding equilibrium and safeguarding our mental health becomes an intricate juggling act.
Furthermore, another significant element that contributes to this sense of inadequacy and tension is the simultaneous increase in global population and globalization. As a result, there is a convergence of diverse ideas, identities, and cultures, which, on the one hand, can be positive. However, when looking at the bigger picture, it also brings news of ethnic conflicts, the fear of losing one's identity, violence, and distressing events that teenagers and young adults now regularly encounter. An example of this is the recent conflict in Manipur.
In addition to the cultural impact, there is a pervasive sense of competition. The educational and other opportunities available to so many individuals fuel a constant pressure to excel and outperform others. This weight on the young minds leads to a multitude of mental health issues, ranging from changes in diet to anxiety and a suffocating feeling of being overwhelmed. Tragically, reports of suicides among children due to pressure, like those seen in Kota, only further emphasize the detrimental consequences of this competitive environment.
While there has been a significant decrease in the stigma surrounding mental health, there remains a glaring lack of research addressing the root causes of these issues. Insufficient funding is allocated to mental health research, and there are only a handful of colleges in India offering psychology programs. For instance, among the 11 colleges under the University of Delhi (DU) that provide BA (Hons) in Psychology, seven are exclusively for women. The leaders of our country seem to pay little attention to this pressing matter. Unfortunately, any improvements in addressing mental health concerns are primarily accessible to individuals like myself, residing in urban areas and belonging to upper-middle-class families who have the privilege of seeking help. However, we must consider those who cannot access support.
Who then is accountable to them and the future generation?
Antara Shah is an avid learner and thinker, a music and art enthusiast who seeks to understand and connect with people. The piece is also available on Linkedin.