In today’s world, mental health awareness is one of the most important topics to discuss. Mental health problems are rising among every age group, especially after the first and second waves of the COVID-19 pandemic. People have experienced chronic diseases, death of loved ones, job loss, lack of medical support, and the crippling effects of nationwide lockdown in the last year. Proper mental health awareness has become very important during this phase. It is important now that people know about their mental health status, understand their symptoms, and seek professional help, if needed. It is crucial that we break various mental health stigma which makes most people suffer in silence. Nowadays, many people are coming forward to share their stories, experiences, and truths that they had learned while suffering. Awareness has helped many individuals in recent years who were previously suffering alone, a report says.
Recently, Ramesh Jha, a 22-year-old Bihari boy, has created history by covering 4000 km to spread mental health awareness in schools. He started his journey from Kanyakumari and ended it in Ladakh. His main aim was to interact with as many school students, workers, teachers, and officials as possible regarding various mental health issues. While growing up, Ramesh always wanted to serve his country. He got admitted into the National Defence Academy in Pune in 2015 to fulfill his dream. But reality hit him hard as a major spinal injury left him physically unfit for the army. Ramesh has revealed that he suffered from chronic depression after his injury.
While sharing his story, Ramesh said, “After clearing my 12th board exam, I applied for the National Defence Academy and got admitted into the Pune institution. It was my dream to get admission in this college. But things changed when I suffered from a major back injury during my physical training. As per the doctor’s advice, I left the course. I started to feel a strong urge to end my life. I was so helpless, and no amount of condolence could relieve my pain. I spent the worst days of my life when I was in the hospital. The feeling was so frustrating.” He shared that he was completely broken after seeing all his dreams crashing down in front of his eyes. His parents convinced him to get admitted to a humanity course, but unfortunately, he couldn’t concentrate on his studies and failed to connect with his peers. Later, he consulted with a psychologist and was diagnosed with depression as well as a post-traumatic stress disorder.
While telling about his experience, Ramesh further added that he realized he was not the only person suffering from depression or other mental health issues. He felt that people experience such psychological problems more due to a lack of free-wheeling conversation on this topic. In 2018, Ramesh started writing poetry about his life and even published a book titled The Mighty Mustang. He included all his depression experiences, suicidal thoughts, and other stories from his personal life. The book was received well by young readers, and many of them personally reached out to Ramesh.
Ramesh further said, “Many young people contacted me after reading my book and told me how my life story has helped them fight against their mental health problems. That’s when I realized that I could save many people’s lives by motivating them. I decided to do something immediately as the pandemic was already starting to disrupt our lives. I took the initiative to visit different educational institutions across India.” He visited more than a thousand schools and requested the officials incorporate mental health awareness as an extracurricular activity. He wrote an online petition seeking people’s approval on this. “I started my journey on November 16, 2020, from Kanyakumari. I went to Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Telangana, Maharashtra, Punjab, Kashmir, and finally ended my journey in Ladakh”, 22-year-old Ramesh further added.
According to Ramesh, Mental health awareness is not an issue that should be limited to a live session on Instagram. It is not possible to educate people about the importance of mental well-being in just one or two days. It is an ongoing process that we should be consistently working on.
*(Name and place changed due to privacy concerns)