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The word depression in itself is terrifying. One of the deadliest mental health disorder, it has been on a rise, especially among the LGBTQI community. In order to create mental healthcare awareness, Keshav Suri, executive director, The Lalit Group, who himself is a strong advocate of LGBTQI rights, recently collaborated with Dr Prasad Raj Dandekar, founder of HPQI (Health Professionals for Queer Indians).

“I am happy to collaborate with HPQI for an important cause, such as this and glad that Dr Prasad has taken the initiative to educate us all on this crucial subject. Over the years, I have realised that mental healthcare is non-existent for LGBTQI people in this country. It is yet another of the initiatives from our #PureLoveCampaign and we want to tell people we are here to support them and spread the message of love”, said Suri in a statement.

Depression among LGBTQIA is a rising problem
Creating awareness is one of the solution to this problem, says Bhubhaneswar-based psychiatrist, Dr Amrit Pattojoshi. “Firstly, we have to see what causes depression. If I consider myself not normal, then how will the society perceive me?” It’s also a matter of one’s own perspective. So one has to change their own mindset.

Making everybody comfortable, whether a person is gay or lesbian is equally important. “When a parent knows about their child’s sexuality, they are sometimes unable to accept the truth. Many a time, they come to a psychiatrist, thinking they will cure their child of the problem. But we are trying to make everyone aware that it is a normal thing and is not a disease or problem”, says Dr Pattojoshi.

Depression is also related to how others perceive an individual who is coming out as gay, lesbian or transgender. “Coming out is a very personal experience and one needs to consider many factors like what is the mental health of the individual and who is he going to talk to. For example, if it’s his parents, are they amenable to receiving that information? If he comes from a very conservative family, the fear of his parent’s rejection may take a toll on his mental health”.

Hence, such individuals with the help of healthcare professionals, need to deal with it together and make a proper plan. LGBT community first needs the support of a medical professional or if they are in school or college, they need the support of an authority. Every school should have a counselor where students can come out and talk about their problems. And once an authority figure, who remains unbiased in such situations, stands behind a victim, then a lot is sorted.

When a parent says my son is gay, the reaction of a teacher or psychiatrist should be “so what” and not “what!”. That makes the difference. And if that individual is going through depression, it’s better to start treating it at an early stage.

After people become aware about the individual’s sexuality, they need to acknowledge it. “From the point of a healthcare professional, the way to deal with a depressed patient is to start talking to the patient. Once you diagnose that the person is going through depression there are two things we need to do — one is to treat the depression with pharmacotherapy or medication. There has to be a plan in action that how many months would you treat or temper those medications. That will help the individual immediately to reach a level where he/she will become a little comfortable”.

“When a person is severely depressed, no amount of counselling helps. They are not in the mental frame of mind to undergo counselling, to understand and follow. After few weeks of pharmacotherapy, the person will become amenable for therapy and then the counseling session should start. We, then, refer the patient to a trained counselor, who can help him through the problem and overcome it”.

As the Thai Navy Seal unit succeeded in rescuing 12 boys and their soccer coach who were trapped inside a flooded Thai cave for more than 10 days, the world breathed a sigh of relief. The 25-year-old coach Ekapol Chanthawong stood strong and took care of the children and what kept the boys going were frequent meditation sessions inside the cave. According to AP (Associated Press), it is said that before being a football coach, Chanthawong served as a saffron-robed Buddhist monk for around a decade.

While talking to AP, Tham Chanthawong, aunt of the coach said, “He could meditate up to an hour. It has definitely helped him and probably helped the boys to stay calm.” Even the rescue experts pointed out that the Wild boar boys had the advantage of their coach’s experience with meditation.” Ekapol’s meditation – a mainstay of the Buddhist faith – likely served the group well. Meditation helps to manage the mental state and allows to reduce fearful and negative thoughts.

Just in case you aren’t aware, performing meditation releases alpha waves in the brain that is associated with relaxation. By relaxing our brain cells, it keeps us calm during difficult situations.

Here are some of the benefits of meditation:
* During anxiety and panic attacks, the heart starts beating faster, which might lead to stroke in extreme situations for people with cardiovascular issues. Meditation decreases heart rate, reduces anxiety and also reduces blood pressure.

* The purpose of meditation during panic attacks, anxiety and stress is to help you step away from these experiences and witness them as a third person. When people are tangled in anxious thoughts, struggling against them, they are too trapped to deal with them.

* It disrupts obsessive and negative thought patterns and allows us to restructure our thoughts.

* Meditation helps to create a creative space between the person and their problem.

Mental health issues such as depression and anxiety disorders are common, and anyone can be impacted by them. But when you add the societal stigma, discrimination, and bullying LGBTQ individuals can face, it’s not surprising that studies find that they suffer from higher than average rates of depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and suicide.

There’s no shame in not feeling your best emotionally — it’s okay to not feel okay. The most important thing is that you don’t resign yourself to feeling this way. Help is available. We’ve put together some advice and resources to help you give your emotional well-being the attention it deserves.

What symptoms to look out for
Mental health issues can have both emotional and physical symptoms. These may include:

Trouble falling/staying asleep or sleeping too much
Anxiety or panic
Substance abuse
Thoughts about self-harm or suicide
Muscle tension
Upset stomach
Palpitations (heart racing)
These symptoms can also be attributed to other medical conditions, so it’s important to talk to the right person to get help.

Talk to your primary care provider (PCP)
If you have a provider you feel comfortable with, that person is a great place to start for mental health help. At One Medical, all of our PCPs can identify and treat mental health conditions such as insomnia, fatigue, stress, anxiety, and depression. Depending on your preferences and the severity of your symptoms, your provider may recommend options like meditation, mindfulness apps, lifestyle changes, therapy, or medication. And if you need specialized care, they can guide you to the right resources so you’re not left feeling overwhelmed or anxious about where to go.

It’s important that you feel like you can talk to your provider about all aspects of your health — including your sexuality, gender identity, and mental health. We understand that many LGBTQ folks have had poor experiences with healthcare providers, and we hope to change that paradigm. As a practice, we’re committed to providing excellent care to diverse populations. Our goal is for every patient to feel respected, comfortable, and well cared for.

Don’t have a provider you can open up to? We can help you find one who understands you and your health needs. Our website lets you search for providers who are interested in LGBTQ care, mental health, or both. Just click “Interests” at the top of the page and you can select “Anxiety, Depression & Insomnia,” “LGBT Care,” and/or “Stress Management.” Keep in mind that all of our providers see LGBTQ patients, so you’re not limited to those who list this as an interest. If you’re still not quite sure who may be the right provider for you, give us a call. Our team can guide you to the right place.

Not able to join One Medical? GLMA and OutCare Health both have directories of an array of LGBTQ-friendly health professionals.

How to get the most out of your appointment
Book a standard appointment to discuss your mental health concerns. I’ve personally had many patients bring up mental health concerns, such as sleep issues, stress, anxiety, or depression, at the end of an appointment that they made for other health concerns. This doesn’t leave us enough time to discuss what they’re experiencing and come up with a proper treatment plan. Mental health deserves just as much attention as physical health — it’s totally okay to book an appointment just to talk about mental health. In fact, we encourage it.
Come prepared with notes about what you want to discuss. It’s easy to forget things during an appointment. Preparing a list in advance can help you keep your appointment focused and ensure you don’t forget any important details or questions. It also gives you extra time to think about — and notice — your feelings and symptoms.
Don’t be afraid to talk about your true feelings and behavior. Whether you feel overwhelmed, you can’t sleep, you’ve been drinking too much or using drugs, or you’ve been suicidal, it’s important to be totally honest with your provider. We’re here to help you, not judge you. The more we know, the better we can do that.

There are times when we are low, sad or even depressed and this emotional breakdown may lead to emotional eating, wherein, you tend to eat more than the required calories you would need in a day. In a fast paced life, people tend to feel isolated and that's when they find solace in nothing but food and majorly unhealthy junk food.
According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers have found a connection between eating chocolate and being depressed. It is said that chocolates do contain ingredients, which are known to elevate mood.

Similarly, there are other foods that are known to boost moods. But what is it that triggers the brain to reach out to junk and high-fat foods despite knowing the fact that they may harm you in the long run. According to Consultant Nutritionist Dr. Rupali Datta, "People eat lot of food to comfort themselves and divert their attention from the current situation. They turn to mostly sugary and high-fat foods to feel relieved. Hormones also play a vital role in shifting moods and eating."How does diet affect your mood?

Diet does make an important component of mental health. According to Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School, a dietary pattern characterised by a high intake of fruit, vegetables, whole grain, fish, olive oil, low-fat dairy and antioxidants and low intake of animal foods has been associated with a decreased risk of depression. On the other hand, a dietary pattern characterised by a high consumption of red meat, refined grains, sweets, high-fat dairy products, et al has been associated with an increased risk of depression.

What does science say?
Eating too many sugary foods or high-fat foods can be super addictive; according to a study published in the Nature Neuroscience, eating such foods can trigger the release of dopamine, a feel-good neurotransmitter in the brain. So, the more such foods you eat, brain starts getting addicted to them, making you crave for more. It becomes a cycle and a trap for your brain. When you are sad, you tend to start eating more of these junk foods and make yourself feel better.

You tend to use food to self-medicate, which may help improve or avoid negative or uncomfortable feelings. This makes you overeat and gain weight. Another reason to reach out to these foods is that they also increase the levels of serotonin, a brain chemical that elevates moods. This helps you feel calmer and relaxed.
So if you are sad or low, make sure that you don't pick up convenient options for yourself knowing they can harm you in many ways. Make sure someone is accompanying you; someone who can divert your mind from eating too much. In case of excessive emotional eating, do not shy away from visiting a psychiatrist or concerned expert.

People experiencing mental illness are subjected to social stigma, ridiculed for “just in your head” issues and told their problem is “all an excuse”.

UK journalist Hattie Gladwell started a Twitter thread with the hashtag #ThingsPeopleHaveSaidAboutMyMentalIllness and asked her followers to reveal the most unhelpful, insensitive or insulting things ever said to them about their mental illness.

“One person told me I didn’t need medication, I just needed to be more motivated to cope with my mental health,” Gladwell posted @hattiegladwell as she shared her experience.

Gladwell’s tweet got an overwhelming response with grievances pouring in from across the world. Fed up of being dismissed and not heard, people began sharing the worst things said to them about their mental health.

It was soon widely shared, garnering over 600 responses. It was liked by 2,600 people and shared nearly 470 times.

In India, mental health came into media focus when Bollywood actor Deepika Padukone opened up about depression in an interview in 2015. She spearheads The Live Laugh Love Foundation that aims to reduce the stigma, spread awareness and change the way people look at mental health issues.

Following Padukone’s confession, several prominent personalities such as Varun Dhawan, Ileana D’Cruz, Shama Sikander and Manisha Koirala too came out with stories of battling with depression, bipolar disorders, body dysmorphic disorder and anxiety.

The National Mental Health Survey of India-2016 describes mental disorders as a diverse group of conditions varying in their presentation ranging from acute to recurrent to chronic, mild to severe, multiple disorders to single illness, morbid or co-morbid conditions and in several other ways.

The findings of the survey revealed that one in 20 people in India suffer from depression, a high prevalence of psychoactive substance use and that high suicidal risk is an increasing concern.

India is home to several organisations that provide assistance to people suffering from mental illnesses. Some of them are AASRA (Mumbai), The Banyan (Chennai), Sanjivini Society For Mental Health (Delhi) among others.

Dr. Suhel  Shaikh
Dr. Suhel Shaikh
MS/MD - Ayurveda, Ayurveda Dermatologist, 2 yrs, Pune
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Dr. Sucheta Mokashi
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Dr. Vijay E Chaudhari
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Dr. Rahul Pawargi
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Dr. Hitendra Ahirrao
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