Ask the Experts: Three Things You Need to Know About Mental Health

Watch an excerpt of our interview with Dr Vikram Patel

What are two or three things you wished everyone in India to know about mental illness?

Dr Vikram Patel: First of all, mental health is not just the absence of mental illness. Secondly, that each and every one of us has a very unique life story that determines our mental health.
That life story is a product of our genetic inheritance and of the social environments that we’ve experienced, particularly in the early years of our life, from very early childhood to young adulthood. The implication of this is that for all of us in society who are concerned with mental health, our primary emphasis for prevention and promotion must be the early years to ensure that environments for young children, whether at home or schools or in communities, are nurturing, because this is the most powerful prevention that we can actually ensure the healthy development of the brain, and thus mental health in adulthood.
And finally, that the best guardian of your own mental health is yourself. Be equipped with knowledge and skill on how to protect and promote your own mental health, but equally remember that there is nothing brave about struggling alone, and if you have got mental health experiences that are very distressing, speak to someone. It could be a friend, it could be a family member, a counsellor, it could be a mental health professional. But don’t just lock it up inside yourself.

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Also Watch: Mental Health and Illness in India