A statistical report published by the World Health Organization recently, declared India as the most depressed country in the world along with a sharp rise in the cases of suicide, anxiety, addictions and many other psychological disorders. According to the National Mental Health Survey of India, 2015-16, around 15 percent Indians suffer from chronic mental health problems and desperately need professional help to reclaim their lives.
At present, India does not have sufficient budget for mental health; there is an acute shortage of well-trained clinical psychologists and psychiatrists and a paucity of rehabilitation centres. But we do have a rich spiritual heritage which can help us overcome this mental health crisis.
Mental illness pushes people into fear, gloom, isolation and nothingness breaking down their spirit, destroying their faith and snatching away from them the courage to bounce back. Life is hard because they are trying to solve too many problems all alone.
But spirituality can completely turn around and transform their dilapidated psychic state — reunify them with their soul, infuse hope, give a new meaning to their life and make them once again believe in the power of the universe. The moment they reconnect to their soul, they find an unfailing partner and have access to divine knowledge, vision and power. The self merged with its Source then transforms into a wise, powerful and joyful entity which can navigate all problems smoothly.
No wonder, many spiritual and religious texts affirm the hidden grace inherent in mental and emotional suffering. The Jaina Sutras instruct us that whenever misfortune comes our way and we are in deep pain, we must bear the emotional turmoil with a cheerful attitude. Sri Guru Granth Sahib further tells us to consider pleasure a disease and endure pain as medicine because it is only a painful heart which can pine for the Divine, incessantly. The Bible also reaffirms that the only way to move closer to the glory God has promised us is through finding hope in our suffering and keeping faith that tribulations make us perseverant.
Many who suffered mental illness and ultimately found sanctuary in spirituality have told me that there was a celestial plan behind the difficulties that had engulfed their life. The overwhelming negativity and pain made them turn to the Divine for salvation and had the blows been milder, perhaps they would have continued to lead a routine, inconsequential life. As they pursued a spiritual path, they realised that their illness was an expression of their soul’s search for wholeness.
Consequently, they stopped looking at it as an anomaly and began using it as an opportunity to become Self-aware, purifying and integrating all layers of their self, meditating on Divine consciousness and experiencing a radical transformation within.
Anyone suffering mental illness can undertake the journey from mental illness to spiritual glory provided we encourage and guide the afflicted person and create a conducive environment. While innovations in medicine and psychotherapy are vital in treating mental illness, equally important is helping people re-establish contact with their soul.
On world mental health day October 10, 2019, let us think of ways in which we can motivate the afflicted ones to discover the healer within.
The writer is a clinical psychologist in Puducherry.