In the last two years, I have seen a movement emerging in the younger generation; a movement of self-awareness, a desire to process their life and make different life choices to facilitate their self-growth. These choices are not in terms of professional and personal choices but more to do with their implicit process like learning to say no or being assertive or practicing self-care etc. It’s exciting and scary at the same time.

I feel excited as a therapist to see people wanting to be on this journey of self-awareness and change. I have personally experienced what this journey did for me. How I have changed over the years and continue to evolve, leading a more congruent and functioning life.

As a layman I feel scared when I see so many young people experiencing anxiety and depression wondering what is happening right now which is triggering mental health issues. And no, let’s not rush into blaming this one on COVID as well.

Awareness of therapy is increasing and not restricted to the younger generation only but our parents’ generation is slowly coming around to what the therapeutic process means. It is gratifying to see that more open and honest conversations are taking places around issues like sexual abuse and depression or relational issues. The cloud of stigma around mental health is slowly lifting.

But the question again that comes to my mind is, why now? Is it that mental health issues are on the rise due to environmental factors like the 21st century woes of the technology boom, social media exposure etc. or is it that the increasing awareness of mental health has given courage to people to talk about it and seek help? And then there is another possibility that this movement of mental health awareness is making people enact the various mental health issues, amplified in their minds and more a perception than a reality.

If we go with the first hypothesis, there is an element of truth on how environmental factors play a role in the development of a healthy mind. The onus of the human mind and psyche development lies on the nuclear family and the early years to begin with. But adult life experiences also play a significant role. So to say that for example, that social media has contributed to greater anxiety and depression is valid. The world today lives more for presenting a false self to the world, forced to participate in the social media race rather than feeling comfortable in exposing their real selves. Or the online world today would exacerbate the situation for an introvert maybe pushing him towards antisocial personality traits.

The second possibility and probably the strongest in my opinion, is that these mental health issues always existed and people continued in their lives using coping skills not knowing what else was out there to help them. I didn’t know until 2014 when I started studying that psychotherapy exists or how amazing it can be. I see that amongst my clients who are fascinated that only talking can cure or heal issues and thought only medication can help depression for example.

Third and lastly, I postulate that it’s having this exaggerated, almost-angry stance on ‘mental health counts’ by some people; in pursuit of avoiding any mental health issues they make themselves more vulnerable to it. It means that for example, I continue to hold the banner of ‘my mental health counts’ and I start giving too much attention to looking for any symptoms that indicate otherwise. I fear being anxious and depressed and start seeking therapy to avoid that state and this fear and avoidance would actually strengthen the mild symptoms and turn it into reality. Viktor Frankal, a famous psychiatrist, called this “hyper reflection, where we become over conscious of ourselves.”

Therapy is a life-changing process. Assuming personal responsibility for our internal and external process and seeking support for it is a powerful thing. But it’s also important to start therapy with the correct mindset of looking within and changing our own selves rather than seeking it to blame others entirely for our own life choices. Charity begins from home and so does change. So start with your own selves first!