Racing to the Brink: Mental Health and You

By Varkha Chulani

“What is this life if, full of care, 

We have no time to stand and stare.”

W.H. Davies’ poignant words from his poem Leisure, exactly defines Mumbai-ites today.

Look around and see. The rush. The mad race. The urgency. The chase. It appears we are vying with each other for who will be the quickest to the shrink’s chair, if not to the grave! Yes, who said competition restricted itself only to finery?

The recently released 2016 National Mental Health Survey (NMHS) states that the prevalence of mental disorders is nearly 2-3 times more in the urban metros of India.

Thresholds are being stretched due to lack of sleep, poor nutrition and lack of infrastructure. Discontentment and a subtle disquietude envelops many a mind. We are all challenging our humanness and trying to become superheroes/heroines. Aha, now you will say, but of course. We have to. Karna patda hai. What with the severe competition and everyone fighting for their piece of the little pie. And then how can you forget the illness of keeping up with the Joneses.

Being seen at the right place, with the right network of people! And the fear of missing out? We have so much to get distressed about! All of the above ideologies call for emotional energies to be expended in manipulative, conniving ways. The mind therefore is never at peace. Because when it is supposed to be resting, it is instead, plotting. How to get ahead of another through fair means or foul. How to race to the top in the shortest time, with as little ability and expertise, by rubbing the right people the right way. Getting rich quick, without effort or skill. With mindsets like the above, an epidemic of anxiety, depression and the often unstated and underrated emotion of jealousy surround the Indian mental space. Is it a wonder then that we are on the edge of a mental health epidemic?


Dr. Gururaj G who spearheaded the survey, noted that relationships are altering rapidly and that not everyone is capable of dealing with this sudden and quick change. The philosophy ‘it’s a dog-eat-dog world’ makes relating a contest. And with more women joining the workforce, each partner fights to show the other that they are better! So, instead of teamwork and collaboration, we have opposition and rivalry. Trust is replaced by suspicion with each partner trying to outdo the other in the fight for one-upmanship. More wars are fought on marital beds than on battlefields!

Pause. Take stock.

As Bertrand Russell said, ‘A good life is inspired by love and guided by knowledge’. Unfortunately, the Indian invests in neither. Love is traded for opportunism. And knowledge is being replaced with erroneous beliefs about what makes for happiness.

As Dr. Girish N Rao, the co-investigator of the survey suggests, do not underestimate the value of mental wellness.

But to do that we will have to review our questionable ideas of success. Because success and happiness are not related. To prevent yourself from falling off the cliff, build pockets of stillness into your life, expect anything worthwhile to take a long time, more importantly do not compare. Savour your uniqueness. You only live once. Live. Don’t exist. More importantly, prevent your tipping point!


About the Author

Varkha Chulani is a clinical psychologist and psychotherapist at Lilavati Hospital in Mumbai. She is an associate fellow and supervisor at The Albert Ellis Institute, New York City.

A friend of The Health Collective, she will be sharing a monthly column from January 2017. Her piece on Understanding Anxiety Disorders can be found here.


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