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It is time to break taboo around mental health and begin conversations on it

Campus Voice is an initiative by ThePrint where young Indians get an opportunity to express their opinions on a prevalent issue.

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It was late at night around 1 am. All were asleep. And why wouldn’t they be? Night is meant for that.

Yet everywhere I could see the pressure building up, pulling my socks up, grabbing all the means to learn more skills because we were heading towards campus placement. There is a lot of competition in the world, a race to be successful and in all this, the invisibility of burning pyres was so evident for everyone.

We all recognised it but the fast-paced life pushed teary eyes into opening their laptops for work from home or online classes. My mind was also puzzling pieces of worries: Was it the other wave of pandemic bringing depressed times? Was it the campus placements? Was it the next online semester and assignment burden? Unfortunate news from a dear one? Or the global hoax forcing eyes wide open at night.

For the longest time, I could not imagine how a fun-loving person like me could have so many negative emotions bombarding my window of thoughts. But it was the reality and the need of the hour was to deal with them all.

The next day, I woke up with my eyes shutting, no one spoke a word at the breakfast table and my thoughts were silenced for a while, as they had become too noisy to be addressed by me anymore.

I checked my phone — notifications, news, messages, time table reminders and what not. I usually sip some news along with the breakfast, but today I didn’t have the appetite for it.

I opened my laptop to complete all my pending work from the previous day and then started my online classes. The grim reality hit me when I saw that most people, especially those from village areas, small towns and rural areas, could barely make it to class on time.

Network issues, household work, burden for female classmates and inability to confidently speak in front of people who were still online strangers popped up like unaddressed issues.

I wonder how they even managed to enter and complete the class along with the rest of us. If nothing, we were privileged with the ‘mostly working’ internet facility.

Mental health important for students during Covid

I was doing a Master’s in Education and we were learning a lot during the course, yet the mental pain became irresistible everyday. College students were falling sick, they had less time to mourn the death of their family members, their parents losing jobs and home-related issues that were piling up.

The result was students were losing their cool, and hours of work was getting piled up for them coupled with the anxiety of completing other tasks.

In all this, parents and siblings were also less supportive. Classmates would call each other to share their stress and stretch a hand of help to others. But it wasn’t enough.

Some of my classmates complained of increased arguments at home, no free time, no privacy, difference of opinion with family members and assignments along with difficulty catching up with the online classes.

Yet, people rarely talked about their mental health, their emotions, their needs. Parents were also burdened enough and did not have time to spare for all this. But I realised that this was necessary. I had increased anger issues, stress, weight loss and anxiety over small fights. I could not stay patient and would yell at family members over disagreements. I was losing it, most of my friends were.

I soon realised that I needed to break this shell of keeping my mental disturbances to just myself and needed to talk it out. Gradually, I started talking about it to my friends and we discussed solutions.

I started taking time off routine work and started to paint, write, read literature or go for 30-minute walks. I started switching my laptop off as soon as I was done eating all the knowledge and I realised how much of my diet for screen time.

I reduced the diet because I realised I was overeating while watching videos after class or reading articles. I stopped it.

Additionally, I started attending open house counselling sessions and spreading counselling facility contact details with classmates, offered by my college as part of enhancing the mental health of students.

I shared my ways of dealing with stress and learned from what others were doing. We all met weekly to share our stories of stress and I realised, among all the important things, mental health was, if not first, the second priority on every student’s list.

We all should benefit from such counselling facilities and approach government facilities. While Indian society lives with the taboo of mental health and facilities lack quality, you and I can start practicing and spreading the word about it.

Drishti is a student of Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Hyderabad

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