On the eve of World Mental Health Day, a panel of mental health experts gathered at the Twitter India office in Bengaluru to shed some light on mental health illnesses and to help break taboos that constantly plague mental health. For an individual who has decided they want to seek professional help, where and how do they start? TNM asked the panelists to share how to best choose a mental health professional.
Who can benefit from seeking mental healthcare help?
“One thing I would like to mention is that mental health professionals are available for all people to access. It is not necessary that you can or should approach an expert only if you have a mental health issue,” explains Dr Nandini Murali, Founder of SPEAK, a platform working to spread awareness about suicide prevention.
“Taking care of mental health is not the same as having a mental illness,” she stresses.
Once someone has decided they would like to meet with a mental health expert, there is the big question: Do you see a therapist (counsellor/psychologist) or do you visit a psychiatrist?
“Approach whoever is most convenient and easy for you to approach. It is the job of the mental healthcare provider to guide you in the right direction and to tell you what help you would most benefit from,” explains Paras Sharma, founder of The Alternative Story, a mental health resource and service centre.
He also echoes Nandini’s views and states that even those who don’t struggle with a mental health illness can also benefit from visiting a mental healthcare provider.
Everyone faces mental health challenges as a part of normal, routine life. Sometimes these may manifest as sleep disturbances, changes in appetite, or even lack of proper self-care. A professional will be able to help you navigate through these challenges, whether they stem from an underlying issue or are regular stress factors which are affecting you.
“The important thing is to get help, whether that is visiting a therapist or maybe calling a helpline. Whoever is most accessible to you, approach them. Even a general physician who is sensitized to mental health issues can also refer you to the right person,” states Paras, adding that a counsellor or a helpline would be a good first step to take towards seeking mental healthcare.
Being a good ally also means taking care of yourself
“The first step to awareness lies in being a good ally and creating safe spaces. Help is even available online,” adds panellist Ramakant Vempati from Wysa, an app which aims to make mental health more accessible to all by providing services online.
It’s not just about those actively needing help. Manoj Chandra, CEO of White Swan Foundation, an organisation working to help spread awareness about mental health, states that being an ally to those with mental health issues also means taking care of your own well-being.
“Even if you have the slightest doubt that something is off, reach out to someone who can help clarify your doubts,” he says.