Every winter, I board a 15-hour flight to India to visit my family. Each visit has been quite a learning experience for me. The day begins with a hot cup of chai with my family at the breakfast table along with morning prayers. As I glance at the front page of The Times of India, I cannot help but notice another headline in which a woman has been disrespected and publicly abused. The news of such incidents has become so common that many disregard it and continue with their lives, often blaming the victim. However, I have realized that this is not a major issue only in India, but globally as well. The domestic violence and oppression that women face (regardless of where it is in the world) is one of the most difficult to resolve because oftentimes, their role and contribution in a household are taken for granted. In many cases, the violence on them goes unreported. Furthermore, victims are often stigmatized and are not encouraged to seek counseling or other mental health services.
Being a psychology major, I know how crucial mental health and wellbeing is to an individual’s overall health. I see the need for mental health awareness and equal access to mental health services. I come from a family of doctors (both allopathic and naturopathic doctors), so I have been repeatedly exposed to the healthcare system and medical field in India. What amazes me is how mental health is not considered serious enough to seek medical attention. In fact, it is so trivialized that people are afraid to seek mental health services. But the problem doesn’t just exist in India; it is a global issue. To me, psychology is the answer to countless issues; from helping sexual assault or domestic violence victims to achieving healthier lifestyles, I believe it is extremely important to raise more awareness on the importance of mental health to diminish the stigma associated and provide those affected with the help that they need.
Coming from a university that emphasizes social justice, I find that focusing on public health is extremely important to ensure health equity and to address the issues within mental health. I believe a public health approach is necessary for achieving health equity in several aspects and raising awareness to ensure that everyone has the same access to healthcare. One specific issue that I believe plays a significant part in achieving health equity is access to mental health services. Seeking counseling and help for mental illnesses has often been associated with stigma and therefore, has taken a backseat to traditional health services. As times are changing, light is being shed on the importance of being healthy mentally and emotionally, in addition to physically. As a result, several laws and policies have been taken into effect addressing the importance of mental health and working towards health equity, such as the Affordable Care Act. Public health has already raised awareness on this issue and is necessary to continue to implement policies that include parity and mental health as part of insurance coverage. I strongly believe that this is an issue that requires attention to get rid of the stigma associated with seeking mental health services and it motivates me to work towards bringing that change to the healthcare field.