Undoubtedly, mental illness is the most significant health challenge we face globally, and in India. The statistics are clear — suicide is a leading cause of death in our country, especially those under 40.

We live in a society where greater ambitions and aspirations lead to more frustrations and disappointments, fuelling loneliness, disconnection and stress. All this increases mental illness. Further, mental health concerns like stress, anxiety, and depression increase the risk for physical conditions like diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular diseases.

But tackling what is going on mentally can be challenging. When a part of your body is hurting, it is easier to understand something is wrong, and there is less stigma and shame in seeking help. However, it may be hard to realise when a person’s mind is not well. And often, people put up with emotional issues for extended periods. Stigma makes them resist seeking professional help.

Many symptoms of mental health overlap with routine ups and downs of human emotions. It may be hard for a person to discern whether their sadness is something that needs professional help versus something that is part of everyday life.

We must make mental health a priority. Everyone should practice good lifestyle habits that promote mental health and prevent stress, anxiety and depression. This includes good sleep, balanced nutrition, regular exercise, good social networks, and learning practices such as yoga and meditation. Making time for mental health daily is essential in our complex, fast-changing, stressful world.

Being happy, healthy and at peace with oneself significantly affects our ability to lead lives that maximise our potential. However, good health that is directly related to being mentally healthy, is yet to be emphasised enough because the world frames success from a productivity lens and through economic accomplishments rather than from a happiness standpoint. This thinking has shifted in recent times, especially post-pandemic, where people are focusing on their happiness, and the society is recognising the urgency of mental health for all.

Let’s make focusing on our mental health a commitment this year.

Dr Shyam Bhat

Dr Shyam Bhat

The writer is a Psychiatrist and Chairperson, LiveLoveLaugh Foundation, a charitable trust founded by Deepika Padukone. Views are personal.