Speak up India

 

In India, we often have this tendency to not go to a psychologist or a psychiatrist. Forget about even seeing a medical expert, it is actually a stigma to talk about mental health issues for the fear of being branded as “demented” or “insane”. This stigma is now unfortunately becoming deadlier each passing day. It is reported that by 2025, 38.1 million in India will be lost due to this horrendous stigmatisation.

The cases of Robin Williams or the recent death of Chester Bennington, is a prime example of how mental disorders remain hidden from even our closed loved ones. The stigmatisation and the feeling of inherent guilt people feel when they come to realise that they might be suffering from something seriously psychological can make people hide their issues. They keep on having a sense of vacuum in themselves or a sense of fear that no one will be able to understand what they are going through. This isolation makes them feel helpless and exacerbates the disease to the point of no return.

Life is an arduous process for everyone. But for people suffering from a mental disorders or diseases, it is an arduous process that they feel they have to undertake in isolation. Thus, one needs to become aware of the symptoms of common mental disorders that affect most people. This can actually help us recognise these symptoms in our loved ones and offer them the crucial support they need. People suffering from such disorders need to be conveyed that they are not alone in this battle.

Symptoms related to mental disorders can actually just look like normal behavioural pattern changes, but a careful analysis can actually help you recognise a difference between a normal change and a serious issue that need our concern.

Depression is a disease and sadness is an emotion. The symptoms can include a significant weight loss or decrease or increase in appetite, along with sleep disturbances, low energy levels and fatigue. Such a depressed individual might experience feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt. An individual might have a difficulty in concentrating and making informed choices. A pensive sad mood and a pattern of talking about death or idolising it to escape problems is a major symptom. People also tend to mask their depression by being overtly happy over normal situations.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a disease that a lot of people do not know about. And when they come to know about this disorder, they just confuse with being punctilious about doing one’s job. But, it is evidently more than just paying attention to detail. It is a compulsion to a certain activity and constantly pondering over that activity. Cases like constant hand washing, walking in a certain path or a pattern and cleaning your room constantly and unable to purge that feeling out is one of the common symptoms. An inability to concentrate over important tasks because of one’s compulsions to a certain task is a sign too. People tend to dismiss OCD as a quirky habit that an individual possesses and something that is a part of his or her personality. But OCD traits should never be confused with personality traits of an individual. Serotonin imbalance is a primary cause of OCD and that is a serious issue for an individual suffering from it. Thus, OCD traits should not be looked over. Any attempt to normalise OCD traits stops the person suffering from it to reach out and get help.

Bipolar disorder, is one of the disorders in which extreme moods swings or a depressive manic episode happens over a period of time. Abnormal bursts or extremely low spouts of energy, interchangeably and for no reason justifiable by the person suffering from it, can be a sign of a serious issue.

Schizophrenia and the psychotic spectrum of disorders is one of the mental disorders in which a person has hallucinations, delusions and unwarranted suspicions towards their close family members and sometimes also disorganised speech and thinking. Diagnosis of schizophrenia also does not mean that a person can never be his or her normal self. Proper medication, counseling and support of loved ones can actually bring a reform in person’s diagnosis.

The curtain that continues to cover our society’s silence over mental illnesses and disorders, needs to uplifted. An understanding that mental illnesses is akin to a physical illness and can be treated needs to inculcated at the grassroot levels . But a pertinent understanding of the fact that mental illness is not just a “phase” that one get out of easily is necessary. A comprehensive and an empathetic understanding over the seriousness of mental disorders by the society as a whole can make it easier for a person to get diagnosis and get treated at the earliest.

 

Wash your hands off all ills this Diwali

Brightly lit up roads, guilt-free dessert eating, and a festive vibe all around! What’s not to love about Diwali? The most awaited festival is just around the corner but along with it also comes the stress of cleaning your house to make it Diwali ready. But just a clean house wouldn’t help you get that auspicious and a healthy start to your new year. A pledge to be more careful about your health and inculcating a strong hygiene practice in your kids can actually help you keep yourself and your loved ones safe. But even as adults, we often tend to miss out or ignore the habitual practice of washing one’s hands before eating.

We tend to think that washing hands as adults is inconsequential, but your hands are a birth ground for germs to flourish. It can create an environment for innumerable diseases to spread around you and your loved ones. There are an estimated 1,500 bacteria per square centimetre of skin on your hand.

Washing hands is the best way to prevent bacteria related illnesses and other infectious diseases. As 80% of communicable diseases are transferred by touch, a regular habit of handwashing as a rule can help create a safe environment for you and your loved ones. Introduce a habit of washing hands as mandatory especially before or after these activities:

  • Before eating and cooking

  • After using the bathroom

  • After cleaning around the house

  • After touching animals, including family pets

  • Before and after attending to sick children or other family members.

  • After blowing one's nose, coughing, or sneezing

  • After being outside (playing, gardening, walking the dog, etc.)

  • After smoking

Also, remember to:

  • Cover cuts with bandages and wear gloves for added protection (cuts are very vulnerable to infections).

  • Artificial nails and chipped nail polish have been associated with an increase in the number of bacteria on the fingernails. Be sure to clean the nails properly.

  • Keep your hands away from your eyes, nose or mouth.

  • Assume that contact with any human body fluids is infectious.

  • Liquid soap in disposable containers is best. If using a bar of soap, be sure to set it on a rack that allows water to drain or use small bars that can be changed frequently.

Most bacteria on our hands are on the fingertips and under the nails. It actually doubles in number after using the restroom. Thus, it is especially advisable to wash your hands after using restroom for 20 seconds.

You must not underestimate the power of hand washing! The few seconds you spend at the sink could save you trips to the doctor's clinic.

Why psychological aid is also important for breast cancer

The psychological distress that anyone faces during cancer is insurmountable. And with breast cancer, it becomes even more problematic. First, the element of fear, pre-diagnosis comes into play which causes fear and anxiety into the minds of young women. Post diagnosis, it becomes almost impossible to have an equilibrium and clear thought process. The myths revolving around breast cancer perpetuates stigma and shame causing women to jump into an even deeper pit of the depression well.

It is estimated that mortality rates were as much as 26 times higher in patients with depressive tendencies and 39 times higher in patients who has been diagnosed with major depression issues. This lead us to the conclusion that depression can actually lead to lessening the chances of survival for women who have breast cancer. And it is not just the women who get depressive tendencies but their spouses too. Male spouses, whose partners were diagnosed with breast cancer, were nearly 40 percent more likely to be hospitalised for severe depression. It can also cause create psychological problems for the children too.

Thus, there is a persistent need for women to seek psychological help along with medical help to combat their cancer. Support groups of women with the same stages of cancer and group therapy sessions are the best way to combat depression along with mental health issues.

Psychologists may ask you to deal with one’s negative emotions, they help in focusing on solution and problem solving techniques rather than just simple problems. In addition to just helping your mental well being, psychologists can also help in decreasing the nausea and vomiting and teach women relaxation and meditative exercises.

Cancer needs to be treated with the help of people around you and a positive approach, as hard as it can be. It is upto the people around the person diagnosed with breast cancer to make them feel that there is still HOPE.

Sources: 

  1. All the statistics and facts have been checked from American Psychological Association website.
  2. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/breast-cancer/living-as-a-breast-cancer-survivor/emotions-and-breast-cancer.html

Myths regarding Breast Cancer that NEED to be shattered!

Breast cancer ranks as the most prevalent cancer amongst Indian women. Yet, Indian women are still unaware of it with the mortality rate due to this disease increasing day by day. 1 And since prevention is better than cure, it is time to understand that breast cancer can happen to anyone; irrespective of what you do and whether you have a family history of breast cancer or not.

The best way to get aware about breast cancer is to have a self-test every month to check for any lumps or swelling to skin changes. For women above 40, it is best to get a mammogram test done annually for identifying a type of breast cancer that may have no obvious symptoms at  all.

The actual process of diagnosis can take weeks and involve many different kinds of tests but it is better to be safe than sorry. Nonetheless, if you do feel any lumps or swelling to skin, that DOES NOT necessarily mean that you have cancer.

Which brings us to the 5 MAJOR myths of Breast Cancer that one need to bust about breast cancer:

1) Myth: Having dairy product causes breast cancer.

The Truth:

Several myths persist about the correlation between dairy intake and the increased risk of breast cancer.  Over many decades, studies have shown that dairy consumption does not increase the risk of breast cancer.  For more information about these studies, please visit:

https://academic.oup.com/ije/article/31/1/78/655928/Meat-and-dairy-food-consumption-and-breast-cancer.

2) Myth: Finding a lump in your breast means you have breast cancer.

The Truth:

Only a persistent lump in your breast or noticeable changes in breast tissue may be suggestive of breast cancer. Such signs should never be ignored. Finding a lump in breast is very common and mostly they are benign, but still it’s important to get it checked. 

3) Myth: Men do not get breast cancer.

The Truth:

While the percentage of men getting breast cancer is still small, men should also self check themselves while they are in shower. Men carry a higher mortality rate and are less likely to assume a lump is a breast cancer and thus it is pertinent that we bust this myth. 

4) Myth: A mammogram can cause breast cancer to spread.

The Truth:

According to the National Cancer Institute, “The benefits of mammography, however, nearly always outweigh the potential harm from the radiation exposure. Mammograms require very small doses of radiation. The risk of harm from this radiation exposure is extremely low.”So get an annual mammogram test when you cross the age of 40.

5) Myth: Deodorants cause breast cancer.

The Truth:

Researchers at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) are still not aware of any conclusive evidence that can link the growth of cancer cells to the usage of deodorants.

Sources:

  1. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/ajco.12661/full
  2. International Journal of Epidemiology:
    https://academic.oup.com/ije/article/31/1/78/655928/Meat-and-dairy-food-consumption-and-breast-cancer
  3. All the data has been checked from www.nationalbreastcancer.org and www.cancer.org