Support groups vital for mental wellbeing of women

Young women smile for the lens during a community work at Chisholimi village, Nagaland. (Morung Photo)

Young women smile for the lens during a community work at Chisholimi village, Nagaland. (Morung Photo)

Kanili Kiho
Dimapur | March 9

Mental health as an integral part of health is more than the absence of mental illness. It is the groundwork for wellbeing and effective functioning of an individual. Raising awareness and mobilizing efforts in support of mental health is necessary for addressing the situation, more so, in this age of technological explosion.

In this regard, with focus on women, The Morung Express spoke to mental health professionals and women from the State.

Imlibenla Mongro, Clinical Psychologist, Christian Institute of Health Sciences and Research (CIHSR) said that more than male patients, the female counterparts seek help for mental health problems on their own. This, she said, had to do with more awareness on mental health symptoms on the part of women and hence they are “more pro-active in trying to help themselves get better.”

Women having a laugh in between preparations for the New Year’s celebration in Chisholimi village, Nagaland. (Morung Photo)

Dr Althea S Wotsa, Consultant Psychiatrist at Faith Hospital, Dimapur, said that men and women suffer from mental health problems equally but certain factors may predispose them both to some particular problems more often. She said depression and anxiety is seen more in women while conduct disorder is more common among young boys, while men are more prone to addictions. While there are no proper and specific research data on mental health problems in Nagaland, she said that she has come across a wide variety of psychiatric illness among her clients.

The common factors leading to mental health problems in women range from body image issues, personality, family issues, self-esteem, physical, sexual and emotional abuse and even physical health like hormonal problems.

Mental illness can be understood as an ailment of the mind, said Mongro. When a person’s mental health starts affecting their mood, thinking and behavior, or especially when they are unable to tell what is real and what is not, then we can say that she/he may be going through mental illness, explained the two practitioners. “But which mental illness? That needs to be assessed and diagnosed by professionals,” said Mongro.

While most of Mongro’s patients are from Dimapur, when a few of them come from outside the city, she tries to connect them to mental health professionals in their vicinity. She however notes that the ratio of mental health professionals per population is quite disproportionate.

The practitioners said that treatment of mental health disorder is the need of the hour. They called for comprehensive strategies for promotion, prevention, treatment and recovery through a governmental approach. Policy makers should be encouraged to promote availability of and access to cost-effective treatment of common mental disorders at the primary health care level as well.

One vital thing to promote mental wellbeing is “support,” said the practitioners. Apart from professional or medical help, we need support groups from the community and friends and family, which is vital for a healthy state of mind. Dr Mongro said that along with encouraging people to pursue careers in mental health area, people should also be actively trained to facilitate support groups where people feel safe and belong to people with similar problems. “They need to feel empowered even before they reach the professional practitioners.”

The two women professionals said that mental health affects just about anybody, from any age group, tribe, social class and religion, as their patients range from young children to people in their 70s or 80s. 

As they celebrate the essence of women and their resilience in trying to heal, Mongro also urged women to “show love to ourselves by being kinder and taking care of ourselves.” 

Dr Wotsa added that that practicing gratitude and self-care through physical activity, balanced diet, good sleep hygiene, maintaining self-discipline for work, goals and social priorities are certain steps that one can take towards a sound healthy mental state.

An ophthalmologist who wished to remain anonymous observed that the general mental wellbeing of Naga women depends on age. She viewed that women in their 50s and above normally have strong mental health, which she attributed to getting support from other women as a community.

Whereas for women in their late 20s and 30s, are more prone to pressure, especially if she is unmarried or do not have “a proper government job.” The family and societal pressure are severely affecting their mental health, she maintained.

In regard to who is more prone to mental illness in the society, she said that everyone is equally susceptible to it (both male and female). It comes down to who has a good family support system.

She also viewed that the younger generation (Gen Zs) are exposed to the virtual world at an early age, which is leading to feelings of dissatisfaction, depression and identity crisis, posing a serious risk to mental and emotional health.

As a woman, she said that premenstrual syndrome is a common factor and people need to be aware of it. “Women should be treated with care and love during this period.”

A theological student from Dimapur went along the same lines on the factors of mental health problems affecting women in the society. However, according to her “Naga women are resilient and can handle mental pressure with much grace unlike the men who tend to act strong but turn out to be more vulnerable to societal pressure.” Nevertheless, she said that mental health is personal and differs to each accordingly.

A psychology student said that she has experienced quite a few mental health problems, such as emotional disorder and depression, all while she gave counseling to the children in school. With a lot of self-care and self-motivation, she was able to come out of it. She said that it was time that “we as a family and a society,” start to talk about mental health illness and show support and empathy when we sense anyone dealing with it.