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Mental Health & Sex: The biggest taboos of Indian Society

Interestingly, talking about mental health is quite the same as talking about S-E-X in Indian society. Both are heavily shrouded and stigmatized subjects. Ever noticed the male members of your family cringe when a sanitary napkin Ad comes in during their much macho-y Cricket match? Oh, and how can you forget subtly looking away from screens when a condom Ad is up?

But as the literate chunk of society, which I know you are coz you voluntarily came to read this post so give yourself some credit, don’t you think that awareness should be developed for both of those areas?

Let me tackle the big gun first.

SEX.

The English word “sex” comes from Latin sexus, -ūs, which comes from a root sec- meaning “cut” (compare section, dissect, segment). The original meaning was “division”, which shifted to “a way of dividing something in half”, and thus to “the division between men and women; biological sex”

And so why is it “Dirty” or something that needs to be spoken of within a dark room like some mafia drug deal? Society needs to understand that this serious lack of awareness has led to a massive increase in sexual harassment and child abuse cases that never see the light of day. Most of these cases, disturbingly happen within the family itself (and here I include immediate family members, extended family, and close friends) and are closed off there so as to not destroy cordial family relations. The reason this happens is that we as children feel safe around certain people and it becomes ethically wrong for us to say anything against them as we love and respect them.

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I have personally come across the horrific details of such acts being committed blatantly and the victim, due to her lack of awareness, doesn’t raise her voice. I have heard these encounters from girls mostly. But boys also do face the very same fate. Furthermore, being a guy, makes it even more difficult for them to go up to someone and say it coz more often than not, it is misunderstood that guys cannot be victims of Sexual Harassment. I don’t intend to get into the gory details of those acts performed. However, there are a few pointers that can be kept in mind. It is highly essential to impart some key dos and don’ts to toddlers and gradually increase their scope of knowledge as they age.

Every parent should inform their child of these few commandments:

  • no individual in the family or close friends is allowed to touch them inappropriately, which includes : - sexual touching or fondling of private areas of the body - putting objects or body parts inside a child’s mouth, anus, or vagina for sexual pleasure or any unnecessary reason
  • no individual is allowed to see a child undress, mostly without their knowledge, or make the child undress someone else.
  • using a computer, cell phone, or other social media to make sexual overtures to a child

Such healthy boundaries can help prevent heinous acts of harassment. Sex Education should not only be imparted within families but also taught in schools so as to prevent the unwitting youth from taking actions that have catastrophic consequences.

Now moving on to the next stigmatized topic: Mental Health.

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It is about time that we accept that more than 90% of the population is struggling with one form of mental health issue or the other, the most common of them grappling most of society today is Stress. Yes, stress is a form of mental health issue that manifests itself when we are unable to regulate our emotions or actions post a certain event or situation.

It is interesting to note that the reason much of the country doesn’t visit a Therapist or a Psychiatrist can be multifold. Firstly, the most ignorant reason is being labeled as “Mad”, “Crazy”, or “Psycho”. These are those people who dismiss their depression or that of others as mere sadness or loss of focus. When in reality, Depression is much more draining than a normal physical illness. It is not “feeling sad” but rather the incapability to feel anything at all. The first step to fighting such a disorder is accepting that you are suffering from it. Second, comes the category of those individuals who are aware and yet are unable to take action. One of the reasons could be parental and peer pressure, as society is very much closed off to the thought of taking therapy. Going to a psychiatrist is considered a disgrace to the family and unfortunately, some friends might ask you to “Get over it”. The other reason is when the person knows that there is a need for medical attention yet dismisses it by touting it as a rich man’s luxury. Therapy is not a luxury, it’s an investment. It is high time people believe this. And why does it have to be expensive if you can have a shoulder to lean on and a pair of ears to hear? Until your mental health issue is a deep-seated one a friend, a partner or a parent can also become an excellent therapist. As for the much more troubling issues, a therapist can help you find routines and exercises that can train your mind to respond to your stressors in a better way. For example, if what you are suffering from is Childhood Trauma, PTSD, Bipolar Disorder, a whole spectrum of personality disorders, mood disorders, etc. A seasoned professional can help you navigate your way through fighting such conditions and help make your life a little easier.

The solution to these as with most other problems is in conversation. Open and honest communication is key to understanding anyone’s state of mind and also bringing awareness about atrocities that could very well be prevented. So the next time a kid comes to you with a question regarding a topic you feel uncomfortable about. Well, come out of your comfort zone and address the issue. Start a healthy conversation and make them aware. They are going to find out things any which way, so why can’t you be the one imparting the correct knowledge?

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