As we trudge along amidst a global pandemic, surrounded by stories of doom, despair, and death, it is no easy feat to stay upbeat.

 

Big words are floating in the virtual world,

Everybody has something to say.

A much public piece of sad news has shaken us,

Particularly since the times are so grey.

 

There are self-determined labels,

Speculations do the rounds,

Lots of opinion pieces and op-eds,

‘If only’ … regrets abound.

 

Helpline numbers getting circulated,

Lists of therapists are going viral,

Free unverified advice,

About how to handle your life,

When in a downward spiral !

 

But as the dust will settle,

And we get lost again in the mundane…

Old patterns will reemerge,

And this realization could go in vain.

 

Where we all return to our hustle,

Going about things at a frenzied pace,

Lost in our screens and chores,

Missing the look on someone’s face.

 

Perhaps we could pause a moment?

Pause to listen, pause to share.

To sometimes just be there.

To lend a shoulder,

To extend a hand,

Just be sensitive humans

Not Superheroes with a magic wand!

 

As the news of a popular film actor’s death by suicide shocked the nation and grabbed headlines, mental health awareness has surfaced in popular discourse. Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time (not the last either), that such troubling events will unfold. As we trudge along amidst a global pandemic, surrounded by stories of doom, despair, and death, it is no easy feat to stay upbeat. For someone who is emotionally vulnerable, and/or with little or no social support, the situation could be exponentially adverse. Mental heath always mattered. But perhaps a time like this has got us to collectively and vocally acknowledge that it really does!

Media networks are organizing frenzied debates, there are calls for policy changes, large-scale support networks to be activated, and that is all fair and important. This piece definitely does not intend to advocate missing the wood for the trees. However, besides the larger scheme of things, the idea is to draw attention to small everyday (seemingly insignificant) ways of conducting our social interactions and ourselves. As we go about our busy lives, endless chores and responsibilities, we seem to rush past our own thoughts and feelings, With our minds always full, we are seldom mindful of things that are so significant to our own well-being. Let us take a moment to acknowledge our own feelings, and those of others around us.  Remember, small steps for greater good can go a long way.

Let’s extend our ‘How are you’ to something more meaningful than just a cursory greeting. Let’s be a little more alive to each other’s problems. Let our opinions be little less judgmental, and our ‘kind reminder’ emails be a little less unkind. Let’s ease out the constant pressure on our selves and others – to always look and feel good and appear to be on top of things. It’s okay to fall out of the race, it’s okay to slow down, and it’s okay to not be okay. This reassurance and acceptance can be a very valuable social and emotional asset in the times that we live in.

As a student (and teacher) of Psychology, I cannot emphasize enough the need to embed ‘emotional education’ as part of our educational curriculum from the early years. We teach our children all kinds of things, and equip them with skills to handle diverse external tools and technologies. While running to master all this, and often outdo each other, we neglect equipping them with skills to understand and manage their own emotions – a skill so crucial to both personal and interpersonal success. These children could grow up with bruised or inflated egos, air brushed online presence, tremendous emotional distress, and no real clue how to handle this mess ! If a flourishing virtual friend list and no real friends (or family) is the way we are headed, we need to get our act together. And while we are at it, we need to act together! It is miserable to be surrounded by people and yet have no one to open out your heart to.

Please be clear, ‘talking’ is not the solution to everything. It sure is not. Professional help should be encouraged and sought when needed. But isolating isn’t the solution either. Ghosting people in our social circuit when they seem ‘difficult’, ‘emotionally dramatic’, and needy for support does not help! Labeling them certainly does not serve the cause either. Small acts of sensitivity and compassion wield more power and potential than we realize sometimes.

Seeking help is a sign of strength.

Offering help is a sign of humanity.

Dr Pulkit Khanna is Associate Professor at Jindal Institute of Behavioural Sciences, O.P Jindal Global University. She is also Assistant Director, Centre for Leadership and Change in the same Institute


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