Mindfulness Techniques to Fight Self Harm

Trigger Warning: Mentions of self-harm, depression, suicide

Self-harm is a taboo topic, even in today’s world of acceptance of Pride and no prejudices. When we hear that someone self-harms, 70% of the time, the first reaction we’d have is one of horror. Not even disbelief, pity or anything else, just plain horror, followed by a poor attempt to empathize. Very few of us try to help the person out, mainly because we don’t understand what they’re going through. But that’s just our conditioning. We’ve been taught to avoid that which makes us uncomfortable and go with the crowd. It’s time to have a breakthrough. 

What is self-harm?

Self-harm or self-injury means hurting oneself intentionally. Self-harm is not a mental health illness in itself. Rather, it displays an inability of the person affected to cope with a certain illness, most often something like bipolar disorder or borderline personality disorder

To the people who self-harm: know this. You are not going through this alone. Self-harm is not something you have to live with all your life, and there are loads of people to narrate their experiences and support you. You need only reach out to seek help.

Why do people self-harm?

There is no scientific answer to this. Some people say they do it to relieve stress. Some others say they do it because the physical pain is better than the mental pain. It is a sign of great emotional distress, and the person is often engulfed by feelings of shame, frustration, guilt, and pain. Some common reasons that people reported include:

  • Relapse from alcohol or drug use
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Low self-esteem
  • Peer pressure
  • Bullying
  • Family issues

But there is no weakness in asking for help. In fact, it takes great courage to open up and talk about your feelings. If you do feel overwhelmed by these negative feelings, please, reach out to someone. 

Who are the people most prone to self-harm?

Though self harm is something that can affect anyone, this practice is most commonly found in young adults and adolescents, starting especially from one’s teenage years. People from unstable homes or those who have experienced trauma, neglect, and/or abuse in their early lives are also prone to self-harm. 

If you are a loved one of a person who self-harms, it is important to note that self-harm is not a cry of help or a demand for attention. But this does not mean that people who self-harm don’t need care and compassion. When someone opens up about their pain, chances are that it’s not your opinion they seek; it’s your acceptance. A simple smile goes a long way!

How can we fight the urge to self-harm?

While there are no tablets or tonics for it, psychologists and therapists all over the world do commonly recommend some grounding techniques and on-the-spot hacks that can help a person relieve their urge to self-harm.

Some of the most popular grounding techniques prescribed by therapists are:

  1. Progressive Muscle Relaxation:  This is a very simple deep-relaxation technique prescribed to reduce anxiety, stress, insomnia, and many other illnesses. Here is how it works:

While inhaling, clench/contract one type of muscle in your body. For example, your biceps, for 5-10 seconds, and then when you exhale, unclench it. After relaxing for 10 seconds, move on to another group of muscles, and repeat the same. 

TIP: Try to visualize the contraction and releasing of tension of the muscles in your body, so that it adds more focus to the activity. Also try visualizing all the stress and pain leaving your body with each release of tension. That helps a lot!

  1. 5-4-3-2-1 Technique: This is an interesting alternative focus technique. Look around your surroundings and answer the following questions:
  • What are 5 things you see (in a particular colour)?
  • What are 4 things you feel?
  • What are 3 things you hear?
  • What are 2 things you smell?
  • What is 1 thing you taste?

Other informal mindfulness/grounding techniques you can try include:

  1. Mental Grounding exercises: 

i) Describe an everyday activity, like brushing your teeth, in detail, to yourself
ii) Try to think of as many things in one category, like dogs or plants or musicians, as you can! Tests your knowledge, too.
iii) Count 1 to 100, but spell out the alphabets. O…N…E, T…W…O, etc.

  1. Physical Grounding exercises:

i) Run warm or cool water down the place where you usually self-harm
ii) Alternatively, try to hold an ice cube in your hand for as long as you can
iii) Jump up and down

You can also carry a grounding object with you, a small pen, a rock, a ring, a marble…anything you can touch and take comfort from when you feel frustrated or anxious or stressed. As with the Progressive Muscle Relaxation technique, you can also visualize your object drawing the negative energy away from you, in order for it to be more effective!


Do you feel like you have no one who listens to you? Do you want someone to vent to? Talk to a LonePack Buddy today!

What makes you, you?

Identify your values to lead a meaningful life

As we grow up, Life can seem to become more complicated. We’re faced with difficult decisions where the “right” choice might not always be easy or apparent. Choosing to pursue your relationship when your family is against it. Ending an abusive and toxic relationship. Being open about your gender or sexual identity. We might end up feeling stuck, with no way out of the situation. In those cases, a strong sense of who you are and your core values, can empower you and give back control of your life.

Lessons from Acceptance and Commitment Therapy

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a form of psychotherapy that uses acceptance and mindfulness strategies mixed in different ways with commitment and behavior change strategies to increase psychological flexibility. In ACT, identifying your values is central to enforcing commitment and, the more personal the values, the better you are able to enforce them. This awareness allows you to be mindful of your actions and damaging behavioral patterns and correct them. Following are a few examples by which this therapeutic approach may be applied for common disorders.

One of the symptoms of anxiety is overthinking. We don’t have control over other people’s decisions, past or future circumstances or even our own emotional reactions to situations but we do have control over our own decisions. In order to break the fatalistic overthinking pattern, it would be helpful to identify your values and if your actions in these make-believe scenarios conform to them.

People who suffer from Depression might feel unenthusiastic about their life because they’re stuck. While it is true that there are a lot of factors that lock us into these situations which feel inescapable, having the mental fortitude can lend an inner strength. Starting small, with just one value and how to improve your life around this value can be the breakthrough strategy to realizing the infinite possibilities to change your life.

Note: The above examples are simplified for easier understanding, however, they are in no way a representation of the entire scope of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy as practiced in a professional setting.

Identifying Your Values

The following is a list of common values. This is in no way an exhaustive list and it is encouraged to add or edit these values to suit your personal experience. You may mark a ‘V’ for very important, ‘Q’ for Quite important and ‘N’ for Not that important across each of the goals.

  • Acceptance/self-acceptance: to be accepting of myself, others, life, etc.
  • Adventure: to be adventurous; to actively explore novel or stimulating experiences
  • Assertiveness: to respectfully stand up for my rights and request what I want
  • Authenticity: to be authentic, genuine, and real; to be true to myself
  • Caring/self-care: to be caring toward myself, others, the environment, etc.
  • Compassion/self-compassion: to act kindly toward myself and others in pain
  • Connection: to engage fully in whatever I’m doing and be fully present with others
  • Contribution and generosity: to contribute, give, help, assist, or share
  • Cooperation: to be cooperative and collaborative with others
  • Courage: to be courageous or brave; to persist in the face of fear, threat, or difficult
  • Creativity: to be creative or innovative
  • Curiosity: to be curious, open-minded, and interested; to explore and discover
  • Encouragement: to encourage and reward behavior that I value in myself or others
  • Engagement: to engage fully in what I am doing
  • Fairness and justice: to be fair and just to myself and others
  • Fitness: to maintain or improve or look after my physical and mental health
  • Flexibility: to adjust and adapt readily to changing circumstances
  • Freedom and independence: to choose how I live and help others do likewise
  • Friendliness: to be friendly, companionable, or agreeable toward others
  • Forgiveness/self-forgiveness: to be forgiving toward myself or others
  • Fun and humor: to be fun loving; to seek, create, and engage in fun-filled activities
  • Gratitude: to be grateful for and appreciative of myself, others, and life
  • Honesty: to be honest, truthful, and sincere with myself and others
  • Industry: to be industrious, hardworking, and dedicated
  • Intimacy: to open up, reveal, and share myself, emotionally or physically
  • Kindness: to be kind, considerate, nurturing, or caring toward myself or others
  • Love: to act lovingly or affectionately toward myself or others
  • Mindfulness: to be open to, engaged in and curious about the present moment
  • Order: to be orderly and organized
  • Persistence and commitment: to continue resolutely, despite problems or difficulties.
  • Respect/self-respect: to treat myself and others with care and consideration
  • Responsibility: to be responsible and accountable for my actions
  • Safety and protection: to secure, protect, or ensure my own safety or that of others
  • Sensuality and pleasure: to create or enjoy pleasurable and sensual experiences
  • Sexuality: to explore or express my sexuality
  • Skillfulness: to continually practice and improve my skills and apply myself fully
  • Supportiveness: to be supportive, helpful and available to myself or others
  • Trust: to be trustworthy; to be loyal, faithful, sincere, and reliable
  • Other:
  • Other:
    Russ Harris, 2013 Adapted from The Confidence Gap: From Fear to Freedom, by Russ Harris, Penguin Group (Australia), 2010.

The activity of identifying values can seem daunting at first glance. It might be made easier through the following activity.

Imagine you are 85 years old and all your friends are gathered to celebrate your birthday. One of your friends gets up to give a speech about your life.

If you had lived your life as you currently do, what are the most memorable qualities in the speech?

Now, take a moment to reflect upon the list of values. 

Imagine that you have made changes to how you live your life that revolves around your values. Now, if your friend made a speech, what are the most memorable qualities in it?

myStrength

How to Live your Values

While becoming aware of your values is a big first step, choosing your everyday actions to reflect them takes dedication and explicit intention. To make it easier, it might be useful to come up with 5 goals that aim at improving your lifestyle around your core values. Then, think back on how these values have been disregarded in the past, the more specific the experience the better. Now, with these memories in mind, come up with enforceable daily, weekly and monthly goals. It is key to start small and be specific when creating this list.

With commitment to your values, you can start to live your life with intention. However, it is unavoidable that we may sometimes slip back into unhealthy behavioral patterns. In those situations, you can reset your internal compass by becoming aware of your values and the reasons why they’re important to you. If the values are truly what make you, this exercise can jolt you back into control of your life.

Finally, Your values might be different in different aspects of your life such as family, relationships, work, community, religion, spirituality, etc. It is essential to make the distinction between beliefs and values. Beliefs might be imposed or imparted and are subject to change relatively frequently. However, values are central to your life’s purpose and generally become stronger when you overcome your mental health struggles. In conclusion, an awareness of your values helps in decision making and allows you to take control of your life and enforcing these values in your day to day life can impart a sense of meaning and direction to your life.

Dissociative Identity Disorder: An Overview

What is DID?

Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), also known as Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD), is a severe manifestation of the group of psychological disorders known as Dissociation. DID is characterized by an individual experiencing a splitting or fragmenting of their original personality into two or more different ones.

This leads to a lack of clarity in a person’s thought, emotions, memories and actions.

What causes it?

Extensive research by organisations such as the American Psychiatric Association shows that DID is more often than not caused by severe emotional, physical or environmental trauma in a person’s past. These causes include physical, sexual, and mental abuse, the loss of a loved one, and life-threatening or near-death incidents, usually occurring around the age of 6.

Who does it affect?

DID occurs very rarely; studies show that it affects 0.1% to 1% of the general population. But when it does occur, there is no age bracket or cases of medical history within which patients fall. DID can affect anyone, living at any place, of any age, or with any background. The onset is commonly observed to be during childhood, but the symptoms may take years to manifest, making it very difficult to diagnose and treat the individuals.

However, it is also commonly agreed-upon by medical professionals that females are more susceptible to this disorder than men.

How can you recognize it?

The following symptoms have been recognized and grouped among individuals with DID:

  •       Eating and Sleeping disturbances
  •       Amnesia
  •       Hallucinations
  •       Self-injurious behavior
  •       Prolonged headaches and migraines due to irregular sleep patterns

One other symptom that is observed is an alternation of personalities; a radical shift in thoughts, behavior and emotions, due to the emergence of the different ‘alters’.

Methods of Treatment

  • Psychotherapy: Also called ‘talk therapy’, it is designed to work through whatever triggers the DID.
  •  Hypnotherapy: Clinical hypnosis can be used to help the person access and deal with repressed memories and feelings that are potential causes of DID.

Another effective form of therapy is encouraging the affected individual to indulge in the creative arts, music, or exercise; anything that can help to reduce stress in a positive way.

Misconceptions about DID

Multiple personality disorder, as DID is more commonly known, has been featured time and again in novels, television series, and movies, the most famous of them being the character of Gollum in JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings series, and Alfred Hitchcock’s blockbuster hit, Psycho (1960). While it makes a good premise for pop culture, the severity of this mental illness is often disregarded and misunderstood.

Though most fictitious characterizations show one or more of the personalities as being ‘good’ or ‘soft’, and some as being ‘violent’ or ‘psychopathic’, in reality, one can never predict the nature of the ‘alters’. So it is best to seek professional help when dealing with a person with DID. 

How can I help?

You can help the patient by recognizing the symptoms at the right time and taking immediate action. DID is a very serious condition that needs to be treated as soon as it is diagnosed.

You can find out more here:

https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/dissociative-disorders/what-are-dissociative-disorders

https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/conditions/dissociative-identity-disorder-multiple-personality-disorder

https://www.nami.org/About-Mental-Illness/Mental-Health-Conditions/Dissociative-Disorders

 

 

The Language of Love

While many assume that homosexuality and homoeroticism are Western concepts that diluted Indian traditions, there has long been a question of how and from where these seemingly radical ideas originated. And even though Indians can’t possibly take all the credit, we have had a fair share of gender-fluid characters and relationships in our history, mythology, and literature.

Contrary to popular belief, our ancestors were extremely far-sighted and liberal. I’m not talking about our parents and their parents or even a generation before them. Think older than that. Let me help you out; picture the oldest generation of your family who you know of, go back three generations, and you might be where I’m at.

I’m talking about Moghuls and Sufis, and going further than that, even gods, angels and demons.

Yes, you heard me right, we have homosexual and transgender gods across the Hindu pantheon. Ardhanareeswar, the perfect combination of God Shiva and his wife Goddess Sakthi, is the patron god of many transgender communities in India. We also have a god born of a union between a homosexual couple. Lord Aiyappa (who is ironically celibate), is said to have been born between Mohini, a female avatar of Lord Vishnu, and Lord Shiva.

Hard to believe? Let’s step into solid history, then.

‘When I see my friend I am abashed with shame,

My companions look at me, I look away sans aim’

(Babunama Translated from Turkish by Annette Susannah Beveridge)

There are many accounts of Babur, the man who single-handedly brought the Moghul dynasty to the forefront of Indian history, being bisexual. In fact, Baburnama, his poetic autobiography, mentions how we was once attracted to a man named Baburi, and how he became lovesick even after he got married to his first wife, Aisha Sultan Begum.

And while we’re on the topic of poetry, let’s not disregard Rumi, the great Sufi poet, whose verses blatantly disregarded the idea that love and sexual desire were taboo.

When someone quotes the old poetic image

about clouds gradually uncovering the moon,

slowly loosen knot by knot the strings

of your robe.

Like this.

If anyone wonders how Jesus raised the dead,

don’t try to explain the miracle.

Kiss me on the lips.

Like this. Like this.’

(The Essential Rumi translated by Coleman Barks)

 

Still need rock-hard proof?

Look no farther than the Khajuraho temples in Madhya Pradesh. Built sometime in between 960 AD and 1050 AD by the best sculptors in the Chandela dynasty, this Jain temple complex has explicitly sexual figures and sculptures that would put the Fifty Shades Trilogy to shame! The most surprising thing about these temples? A good part of them pays homage to homosexual love.

And it’s not just Hinduism, Islam and Jainism; homosexuality and homoeroticism exist in practically every culture in the world.  But so do prejudices and condemnation.

For example, ‘Love hurts,’ is a popular opinion.

‘Unrequited love festers and wounds,’ is also accepted by many.

But something that hurts even more? Not being able to show your love.

It’s taken us 72 years to rid ourselves of our old-fashioned beliefs and practice acceptance by doing away with Section 377. And in those 72 years, a lot of us have suffered because of what others deemed ‘wrong’ and ‘impure’.

How many of us have had to bury our feelings deep inside because of our fear of what society would say? How many of us have felt depressed and wounded because of that repression of our love? How many times have we wished that we had never fallen in love with that particular person?

But let’s face it; society is flawed. It is an imperfect system created by humans to regulate and control each other’s activities. From love that defies the ‘rules’ to lower-than-acceptable marks in your boards, society will keep judging you. There’s no point in worrying about it and spoiling your health and future.

Mahatma Gandhi once wrote, ‘Where there is love, there is life’. Accordingly, love is one of those things that will transform your life. Love, by itself, gives you happiness and peace. Apart from that, biologically speaking, the feeling of love releases dopamine, the feel-good chemical that your brain releases when it feels rewarded or happy, which also eases the negative emotions of sorrow and stress.  And all this happens despite your beloved being older or younger than you, or the same gender as you, or of a different religion, caste or race than you.

Of course, there will always be that fear of judgement from your own family and friends, but then again, what you need to ask yourself is this: Is your love worth all the stress and the effort? If the answer is yes, we suggest you pick up a rose, climb a balcony, and pull off a Shakespearean romance.

After all, what’s in a gender?

Team LonePack wishes you happy life filled with love and prosperity!

Infinite identities – understanding sex, gender and sexuality

“Wahhh…” A newborn cries as it leaves the mother’s warm womb to face the baffling world. The doctor joyously announces, “it’s a girl” or “it’s a boy.” The baby is identified by the pronoun -she or he, based on which the life of an infant is mapped out. From the clothes they wear to the toys they play with, from the emotions they can express to their probable profession, the seemingly distinctive categories of male and female becomes a pertinent determinant.  Further, our society traditionally expects that only a man and woman can be attracted to each other. Sounds familiar, right? But just because we are conditioned to look at things a certain way, it doesn’t tell us the entire story! It is now time to move beyond the binary vision that makes us comprehend the world in black and white, or in this case pink and blue. When we perceive things through a prism of possibilities  rather than  a non-dichotomous lens, the rainbow of sex , gender and sexual identity  emerges. Wait, what? don’t they all mean the same? Absolutely not! Come, let’s try to unravel them one by one-

‘Sex’ entails physiological characteristics like genitalia, chromosomes, hormones, and genes that we are born with. But guess what? Our biology can blur the line of distinction between “male” and “female” bodies with the diversity and variation it offers. Yes, intersex individuals have physiologically reproductive traits that do not conform to the “typical” sex assignment. No, there is nothing faulty or unhealthy about an intersex identity. So, do our genitals dictate our ways of being? To answer this, let us put the spotlight on the term ‘gender.’

1) Gender–biologically determined or socially constructed?

 An increasing line of evidence shows that the experience of gender is a complex interplay between nature and nurture. A meta-analytical study by Todd et al. (2017) revealed that a preference for “male typed” toys or “female typed” toys cannot only be attributed to cultural expectations but also biological predisposition. Despite variations in the geographical location of the study, culture setting, provision of gender neutral toys, presence or absence of adults and the year of publication, there remained a significant difference in toy preferences among girls and boys. These differences remained consistent across countries that rated high on gender inequality and those that scored low on the dimension, suggesting an innate influence on the toy selecting behavior. However, fundamental differences embedded in biology should not confine individuals to a particular way of thinking, feeling, or behaving. Our intrinsic differences are plagued by rigid gender norms that society propagates. This is where the social forces of gender steps in.

Rhoda Unger (1979), a feminist psychologist illustrated that the terms ‘sex ‘and ‘gender’ are not synonymous. While sex suggests biological differences, gender is a socially established role arbitrarily allocated based on this biological distinction. We let the labels, female and male, guide our everyday behavior and choices across situations through the process of socialization. “Why are you weeping like a girl? Learn to play it cool (it doesn’t matter if you are dying inside).” “Who is this horrible driver? Must be a woman.” These are the voices of the everyday gender roles and stereotypes that we subscribe to. We invariably assume someone born as a male to epitomize “masculine” qualities associated with being assertive, unemotional, dominant, and daring. On the other hand, someone born as a female is expected to embody “feminine qualities” recognized as sensitivity, dependency, gentleness, and passivity (Williams and Bennett, 1975).  However, instead of regarding “masculinity” and “femininity” as two ends of a pole, androgyny implies a union of both. On the Bem Sex Role Inventory, designed by psychologist Sandra Bem (1974), high scores on femininity don’t necessarily mean low scores on masculinity. Yes, one can score high on both the dimensions simultaneously! In other words, you can express your gender in ways that renounce the rigid dichotomy of “man” or “woman.” This also brings us to the next concept.

2) Gender identity

Gender identity is one’s self-conception or internal sense of who one is based on their association with “feminine” and “masculine” gender roles.  A transgender individual might feel that their biological sex doesn’t do justice to their subjective experience of gender, elucidating that we are more than our anatomy. Our identity brings with it a universe of possibilities, existing across an infinite continuum. Gender diverse individuals can move across this spectrum, feel they belong somewhere in between, or choose not to associate with any gender at all.  They may identify as non-binary, gender-queer, gender fluid, agender (to name a few), or not label themselves at all. What matters at the end of the day is that self-expression can be myriad, varied, colorful and yet valid!

Sexuality

The discussion around multiple forms of expression remains incomplete without addressing sexuality. Our sexuality is the romantic, emotional, and /or sexual attraction (if at all there is any) towards others. Just like the rest of the concepts discussed here, there are no prizes for guessing that sexuality too exists on a spectrum. Alfred Kinsey (1948), devised a rating scale that ranges from exclusively ‘heterosexual’ to exclusively ‘homosexual’ (the term is outdated and considered offensive. Avoid using it!). This suggests that people can experience their sexuality in ways extending far beyond our listed categories. Gay, lesbian, bisexual, bi-curious, asexual, aromantic demisexual, and pan-sexual are just a few of these diverse identities, each adding its own unique hue to the rainbow. 

While many individuals wish to express themselves in unique ways, they continue to face discrimination, injustice, and isolation because their identity doesn’t align with society’s definition of “normal.” A recent study conducted by UNESCO (2019) tried to understand the experiences of participants (18-22 years) who identified as members of the LGBT community in Chennai’s educational institutions. The results divulged that 60% of the respondents had faced physical bullying and 43% sexual harassment in school. Consequently, they suffered from depression, anxiety, and were more likely to drop out of school. How do we challenge this status quo? The way forward lies in questioning the hetero-normative narrative that promotes strict gender binaries and advocates heterosexuality as the norm. The essence of a pluralistic and inclusive culture is in celebrating differences and accepting all forms of expression as legitimate.

While navigating the evolving constructs of gender and sexuality is an ongoing process, may you define and redefine yourself in unbounded and unapologetic ways, breaking free from the pigeonhole!

                                              You told me the box is where I belong

But I could hear the rainbow call me, all along

You told me my identity is something to hide

But in being myself, I take immense pride.

Citations

  1. https://www.genderspectrum.org/articles/understanding-gender
  2. https://opentextbc.ca/introductiontosociology/chapter/chapter12-gender-sex-and-sexuality/
  3. https://books.google.co.in/books?id=pNUkDwAAQBAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=sex+and+gender&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwi4iO6kwuPpAhUGOSsKHZ2YCHQQ6AEIQjAD#v=onepage&q=sex%20and%20gender&f=false
  4. https://everydayfeminism.com/2015/07/what-is-heteronormativity/
  5. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/lgbt-bullying-in-schools-takes-heavy-toll-reveals-unesco-report/articleshow/69718451.cms
  6. https://qz.com/1190996/scientific-research-shows-gender-is-not-just-a-social-construct/
  7. https://www.healthline.com/health/different-types-of-sexuality#d-l

Schizophrenia – An overview

 

What is Schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is a chronic and severe mental health disorder that is characterized by distortions in thinking, perceptions, emotions, sense of self and behavior. Common experiences include hallucinations and delusions.

These experiences may be difficult to describe to friends and family members, yet seem completely real to the affected person. This may make it difficult for others to understand that these are the effects of the illness.

 

Who is susceptible?

Schizophrenia affects an estimated 20 million people worldwide. The disorder is relatively infrequent, about 1 in 2000 people are affected. Schizophrenia also commonly starts earlier in men. 

People with Schizophrenia are 2-3 times more likely to die early than the general population. The illness starts mainly in young people, ages 15 to 30, however it may start at other ages as well.

 

Why is someone affected by it?

It is widely thought that a combination of genetics, environmental factors such as stress or even psychological factors may contribute to Schizophrenia. 

Schizophrenia can be inherited but in most cases, children of Schizophrenic patients do not develop the illness. Stress can exacerbate the illness or cause a relapse for recovering patients.

 

How is it treated?

Schizophrenia is effectively treated by a combination of medicines and psycho-social support. As a family member or friend you can help by,

  1. Understanding the illness better
  2. Encouraging the patient to access treatment
  3. Encouraging the patient to get back to social roles as much as possible
  4. Taking care of your personal health and mental well-being
  5. Feeling confident to deal with the stigma and discrimination that you and the patient might experience

However, most patients with chronic Schizophrenia lack access to treatment. About 90 percent of untreated Schizophrenic cases are from low and middle income countries. There is also clear evidence that out-dated mental hospital treatment is not effective and transfer of care from mental health institutions to the community needs to be prioritized.

 

Where can you head to find out more?

This article has been derived almost exclusively from the WHO and SCARF websites. The following pieces can further your understanding of Schizophrenia.

Facts:

https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/schizophrenia

https://www.nhp.gov.in/disease/neurological/schizophrenia

Articles on Schizophrenia by NGOs:

https://www.whiteswanfoundation.org/search-result/?q=schizophrenia&tag=True

https://www.scarfindia.org/scarf-media/2019/08/what-is-schizophrenia.pdf

Opinion articles on Schizophrenia:

https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/health/people-with-schizophrenia-open-up-about-the-myths-and-assumptions-surrounding-the-condition/article27186122.ece

https://theconversation.com/the-concept-of-schizophrenia-is-coming-to-an-end-heres-why-82775

Report on status of mental health in India:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/lancet-report-mental-health-disorders-on-the-rise-in-india/articleshow/66156376.cms


 

Trauma for Two

No one in this world is truly independent – a fact many of us would love to deny. Intentionally or not, we all form relationships with people for a variety of reasons, ranging from friendship, love, and support, to professional purposes. In fact, some of us are blessed to have several fulfilling relationships – romantic, platonic, and familial – which we depend on at some point of time in our lives. Is this reliance on others to fulfill certain needs a bad thing? Let’s dig deeper.

You might have heard of the term ‘codependency’ – often used with a disregard for its actual definition. Much to the despair of relationship therapists, the widespread incorrect usage of this term has resulted in a plethora of misconceptions. This has, in turn, skewed our perception of what independence means and what a healthy relationship – with others and our own emotions – looks like, making it vital to clarify what codependency actually is.

Let us begin by establishing what codependency is not. This affliction is far from being equivalent to being clingy or simply depending on someone; codependency is not a blanket term for a person’s reliance on another for help or support. Any relationship has a certain level of dependency. In a healthy one, it comes from comfort and understanding; for a codependent, it stems from a dysfunctional mindset. Codependency is also not synonymous with merely having emotional needs. All human beings have emotional needs. To reject or be in denial of those parts of ourselves and others is to deny ourselves of true compassion and intimate bonds.

A codependent relationship is one that is dysfunctional, where one or both partners rely on the other to meet all of their emotional and self-esteem needs. They are painful and destructive bonds that are marked by a lack of self-sufficiency, self-worth, identity, and autonomy.

The roots of this affliction are sometimes traced back to childhood, particularly for those who were emotionally abused or neglected by their parents. They are taught to go out of their way to please a difficult parent in order to obtain affection, establishing a pattern of trying to obtain love and care from a difficult person in a similar fashion. Codependency can also arise when children are forced to assume the role of a caretaker or enabler owing to an unreliable parent, having to focus on their parent’s needs and never their own.

A classic model of a codependent relationship is that of the alcoholic and their enabling spouse; the enabler encourages dysfunctional habits in order to feel needed and becomes emotionally exhausted, and the other is encouraged to maintain their destructive behavior, impeding the growth of both individuals.

Codependency is identified by the following symptoms:

  •       Low self-esteem: feeling unlovable or inadequate, along with shame, guilt, and often perfectionism. The codependent’s self-esteem arises from sacrificing themselves for their partner, who may be just fine with receiving this “special” treatment.
  •       Mixing pity and love: needing to ‘save’ others, fix situations on their loved one’s behalf or protect them from all harm.
  •       People-pleasing: having a hard time saying no to anyone, going out of their way to sacrifice their own needs and emotions to accommodate others. A codependent will do anything to hold on to a relationship and avoid the feeling of abandonment.
  •       Poor boundaries: feeling responsible for other people’s feelings or blaming their own on others. Some codependents enmesh their self-image with their partner’s, not knowing where their identity ends and their partner’s begins.
  •       Defensiveness: feeling threatened by disagreements and reacting to people’s statements and opinions as personal attacks.
  •       Control: feeling safe when they can control the actions of those close to them. Codependents find comfort in other people behaving in a certain manner; a lack of this may cause anxiety and/or depression.
  •       Anxiety: suffering from constant anxiety about their relationships.
  •       Obsessions: fed by dependency, anxieties, and fears. A codependent may lapse into a fantasy about how they would like things to be or the one they love so they can be in denial of the pain of the present.
  •       Dependency: fearing rejection or abandonment. Codependents need people to need them in order to feel okay. Some may need to constantly be in a relationship, making it hard for them to end things even if they are with someone abusive.

As one can imagine, the impact of codependency is severe – for both parties of the relationship. A codependent suffers from emotional exhaustion and may even neglect their other relationships for one person. Deep down, many codependents feel they deserve the mistreatment they get in their relationships and hardly assert their own needs and desires. For the partner of the codependent, this relationship promotes their own dysfunctions and prevents them from learning common life lessons as they come to rely on the codependent’s sacrifices and neediness. Unless told otherwise, they may never learn how to be in a stable, two-sided relationship.

The good news is that one need not suffer from codependency lifelong. There are several ways in which this behavior can be reversed, starting with seeking professional help. By getting in touch with one’s deep-rooted hurt, loss, and anger, one can reconstruct appropriate relationship dynamics. It is also important to learn to set boundaries with the people one interacts with, and learn to find happiness as an individual. Most importantly, the road to recovery from this affliction lies in open communication.

The urgency to understand what codependency looks like stems from a deeper call to understand the psychology of relationships. The bonds we have with people in our lives – regardless of their nature – have a great impact on our emotional well-being. Our close circles are comprised of individuals who have different life experiences, baggage, and perspectives – all of which permeate into our interactions and relationships. Despite this, many of us either fail to understand or ignore the psychological aspect of relationships – either out of a fear of becoming vulnerable or merely ignorance. This leaves us in denial about the dynamics of our bonds with people, resulting in trauma for everyone involved.

For this reason, no matter what emotional baggage we may carry from our past, we must work towards having a healthy understanding of our own emotional needs and boundaries, and be able to assert the same while acknowledging those of others. Doing so is paramount for having a balanced, two-sided relationship – a treasured asset for us all.

 

 

 

Image credits: Gracia Lam

 

 

 

 

Safer Internet Day

As a millennial, I can say that I have been in two different millennia; that I am part of a generation that is currently the largest demographic; and most impressively, I can tell you that I have seen the days before the Internet and after the Internet and it isn’t all rosy. The Internet has changed the way we live our lives and more importantly, it is changing and evolving at a rapid rate. Sometimes, even the younger ‘Internet’ generation is caught off-guard with new innovations. Gone are the days when the Internet was restrained to computers and hand-held devices. From everyday kitchen items like microwave ovens, fridges to lighting, air-conditioning and even the plumbing, showers and taps are now ‘smart’. Each of these innovations has been enabled by the Internet and has already been adopted into our lives without realising any of the potential risks involved. How can we ensure a Safer Internet in this environment of rapidly evolving risks? The answer is to practice the key aspects of our basic defence to any unknown risk – Awareness, Mindfulness and Literacy. 

 

We have become so conditioned to instant gratification, that most of our everyday actions are to satisfy a need without ever analyzing the potential risks involved. True, the possibility of facing the risk might be low but having never even considered it in the first place can make us severely ill-equipped to handle a situation. We scroll through pages of privacy agreements without ever perusing a single sentence and accept the risks. We use delivery services without realizing the demeaning conditions and the meagre pay that workers are dealt on a daily basis. We support causes on social media that are trending for meme-worthy reasons and never factually analyze the situation. This is because we never ask the hard-hitting questions. “Who are the people behind the screens that are affected by your actions?”, “How are they affected?”, “Why is this important?”. Becoming aware of the effects of your actions on the Internet is the first step to ensuring a safer Internet.

 

Since technology is advancing at a faster rate than our ability to handle or fully grasp the risks, properly educating yourself and others can seem like an onerous and uphill task. As part of my course on Computer Networks, the professor used the analogy of mail to explain how the Internet works. It is a little difficult to use this with your children, who don’t know about post offices and mail in the first place but my point is that stories and examples are great tools to get started. Use exercises such as tracing the data from your smart device to how a request is satisfied, giving great detail to where the data is processed and how. This can gradually lead to a conversation about the privacy of data and the risk of exploitation.  

 

… That brings me to my next point, having open conversations. Putting in place child-locks, restricting the use of the Internet or taking away their phones might seem to cull the problem but only until an alternative that you haven’t thought about springs out. Having the conversation about the risks can alleviate and help children try to understand the reason behind your protective measures. It is always advisable to have the requisite protection in place. As teens, young adults or adults, ensure that children are protected against malicious content, disclosure of details to anonymous persons, porn and content which is violent or disturbing. Most devices allow you to parse the data through a firewall and it is money well-spent to invest on an Internet firewall software system for your home.

For the young users of the Internet, nothing can seem more validating than to be part of an Internet trend. However, know the import of your actions before posting a harsh hate comment, sharing negative content or generally promoting online abuse. Know that it is never okay to hurt someone or to be rude. Anonymity is a double-edged sword. Online abuse can happen to anyone and hiding behind a blank profile makes the comments no less hurtful. Do not take part in online hate culture. Be respectful, Look to the positive, Collaborate, Create and share positive content, Build up others. It is important to realize that critique can also be kind and respectful.

There are many other ways to promote a Safer Internet. Bring the conversation to the physical world. Create awareness campaigns and get policy and decision makers involved. Campaign for institutions and government alike to invest on fostering a Safer Internet. The risks of the Internet sure are multi-pronged and more dangerous than ever. Perhaps, not unlike a mythical creature of yore, the Hydra, which sprouted five heads in the place of one cut off. While the task of providing a Safer Internet might seem Herculean, it is not impossible as long as we remember and practise the greatest tools at our disposal – awareness, mindfulness and literacy.

Peace and PTSD

Trigger warning: Mentions of death and trauma.

Peace.

Such a deceptive word. Such an abstract concept. Such an elusive feeling.

But the guardians of peace, they’re as real and tangible as you and I. The Armed Forces lead lives that most of us cannot and they do so willingly, without an ounce of doubt or hesitation. And their mental health issues are as real and tangible as ours. 

Those of us who lead relatively safe and peaceful lives do not appreciate the Army enough. Most troopers go unacknowledged and unnoticed despite their valiant attempts to safeguard our lives, and needless to say, once they retire, they do not get the right emotional support as they rightfully should.

‘Service Before Self’ is the motto of the Indian Army, and while it is very honourable, one has to wonder if it is a healthy idea. The ugly truth is that 11% to 20% of veterans suffer from mental illnesses such as PTSD, anxiety, and depression, stemming from their experiences in war.  

Not many of us are familiar with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and so don’t recognize the symptoms that are right in front of our eyes. As the name suggests, a person develops PTSD due to trauma suffered in the past.  In veterans, the trauma may be caused by killing someone, watching someone die, or even due to the sheer number of threats they face every day. It can be anything that is shocking and/or impactful enough for the person to feel disturbed by it. In fact, some veterans even see the intense training they go through as traumatic.

PTSD manifests itself in several ways.  Some common symptoms are insomnia, restlessness, and anxiety and panic attacks, which will eventually lead to the person falling into a depression.

Army veterans are more commonly susceptible to PTSD in the form of insomnia and depression. Ever heard of soldiers unable to sleep due to recurring violent dreams? Chances are high that they are suffering from insomnia.  Ever felt seen a veteran insisting on always being armed, scouting out all the exits in a place, and jumping at even the tiniest sounds? That could very well be anxiety and restlessness. All of which are indicators of PTSD.

So the question is, how do we deal with PTSD? Well, this is a very harmful mental health issue and needs to be treated immediately by qualified medical professionals. However, here are some quick tips that might help in the meantime:

 

  • Go Outdoors: It is an old saying that there is no medicine quite like fresh air, and let me tell you, our elders knew what they were talking about. People suffering from PTSD quite commonly feel suffocated or claustrophobic, and pursuing outdoor activities like swimming and jogging can help in clearing your head, and will also help in improving your physical health. 

 

  • Develop Trust:  Lack of trust and hopelessness accompany any and all forms of depression, and people suffering from PTSD, in particular, experience restlessness and anxiety because of loss of trust in people around them. So the solution is to trust that you are safe. Trust in the future. And most importantly, trust in yourself.
  • Get Support: There is nothing wrong in asking for help. Confiding your worries in at least one person and getting support from them will prove to be extremely helpful. There are so many loved ones waiting to support and encourage you. The only thing you need to do is ask.
  • Ground Yourself: When you feel a panic attack coming on, or when you feel depression weighing down on you, try to calm yourself down through small distractions. You can try humming your favourite song, or counting to 1000, or even reciting the alphabets backwards. If you are in a quiet place, you can also practice meditation or pranayama. They not only help in regulating your body functions but also prove effective in stopping your attacks. 

We often think of army men and women as being these infallible heroes. And while they deserve to be celebrated as such, one has to remember that they are as much flesh-and-blood as any living being, and hence frequently fall prey to illnesses.

Because denial is the first barrier to treating PTSD; it’s not only the people around who are in denial but oftentimes the people themselves deny that there is anything wrong with them. This is especially true of veterans, who easily dismiss the symptoms of PTSD and other disorders because they feel that they do not have the liberty to show weaknesses. 

What they don’t realise is that our weaknesses are what make us human.

Team LonePack salutes all soldiers and veterans, and wishes them a very happy National Army Day!

Thank you for your service.

 

A Look into Copycat Suicides

Trigger Warning: Mentions of Suicide and Self-harm

We might have probably heard of the word ‘copycat’ for the first time in the playground. This childish word being associated with a deathly term ‘suicide’ calls for a serious understanding. To briefly explain, A person is said to attempt copycat suicide if he is influenced by the same method of suicide as a famous star/celebrity. 

Many cases of suicides could’ve been prevented with the right kind of support offered at the right time. But several psychological factors like stress or peer pressure lead people to take decisions that lead to self-harm. In addition, when a person reads about suicidal news glorified by the media, it is likely to trigger suicidal thoughts in his mind at their lowest moments. Studies suggest that the rate of suicides has increased whenever a celebrity has committed suicide.

An example of this phenomenon is that of Marilyn Monroe, who died by suicide in 1962 and the suicide attempt rate increased by 12 per cent. But in the case of the Nirvana lead singer, Kurt Cobain in 1994, the media made an effort for a restricting report and it saw a decrease in the rate and increase in the helpline calls. Another case was in 2014 when the Oscar-winning star of “Good Morning, Vietnam”, Robert Williams, died of asphyxia (suffocation) after hanging himself at his home. Following this, it was found that there was a 32 per cent increase in the number of deaths from suffocation and a doubling in the number of calls received by the suicide prevention lifeline. The research also suggested that this was mainly because media amplified the news by providing even the smallest of details. A very recent example is of the controversial Netflix series ’13 reasons why’. An analysis of internet search said that in the 19 days after the series got aired in 2017, the search for the term ‘suicide’ rose by 20 per cent. 

It is very important to understand how a person’s attitude can change after a famous star’s death. they may start considering it to be a way out of all his problems and It is unfortunate that media doesn’t take enough care to report the news with delicacy and explicit warnings. Media is one of the most powerful weapons of democracy and it also has the power to influence imitation suicides, if it doesn’t follow the laid guidelines to report suicidal news. It shouldn’t be exaggerating their deaths. It is also on our part to not get moved by such news and call the suicide prevention lifeline even if we have the slightest idea to do so. There is surely a way out of every problem. Depression is a fight that can be won with the right support and self-belief. with determination and will power. Life is full of obstacles, but no such obstacle has the power to end life. Even if we don’t get what we deserve, we must learn to stand alone and fight it out, instead of harming ourselves. Do reach out for help, there is nothing more important than your mental well-being.