Mind matters

The Asian Age.  | Namrata Srivastava

After fighting a personal battle against anxiety, counsellor Anna Chandy has written a book to give hope to those suffering silently.

Anna Chandy

The contempt I felt for myself was complete; the feeling of worthlessness and self-disgust absolute, I hated myself so much that sometimes I couldn’t look in the mirror. If I looked, I would see the face of failure.

Depression and mental illness affect millions of people worldwide, but many aren’t willing to seek help for it. While some find it difficult to identify what’s wrong with them, many don’t approach a mental health expert because of the social stigmas attached to the disease. 

Battles in the Mind By Anna Chandy Penguin Random House India, pp.288, Rs 399.

Anna Chandy, chairperson of the Deepika Padukone-led Live Love Laugh Foundation, has come up with a book, Battles in the Mind, which is a courageous personal account of a counsellor’s battle with anxiety, coupled with expert advice on dealing with mental health issues.

“Not once in my early years did any adult ask me, ‘Are you okay?’ No, I was not okay, I was a psychological mess. My purpose is to provide hope to individuals who feel hopeless. I have shared my journey as I am a living example of an individual who was able to work through many of my struggles,” says Anna, adding, “My professional journey has enabled me to connect with people from different walks of life. The narratives are unique and yet what is common is vulnerability. This is the paradox. We are scared to be vulnerable and yet it is vulnerability that promotes a strong foundation in relating, connecting, growing and evolving.”

The book opens with a foreword by Deepika Padukone, whom Anna counselled while she was battling depression. Anna believes that various stakeholders such as the medical fraternity, educational bodies and counsellors should emphasise the importance of mental health. 

Deepika Padukone

“Physical health is given importance without realising and recognising that the mind impacts the body. Unfortunately, mental health is not given the importance and value it requires. It is integral to our daily lives and impacts existence. Conversations and dialogues on mental health are integral in building a mentally healthy India,” she says.

Ask her if she feels celebrities speaking about depression has had any impact, and she says, “Oh yes! Deepika sharing her personal story has impacted the conversations around mental illness. More and more narratives are being shared on various media platforms and there seems to be a slow yet consistent conversation to promote awareness about depression and anxiety and reduce the stigma surrounding it.”

In her book, Anna shares instances from her life, which pushed her to depression. Talking about how painful it was to re-live those moments, she says, “When there were painful parts of my narrative that had to be revisited and shared, my schedule would be restructured as I required time to contain the emotions.”

So is there a way one can avoid depression and maintain great mental health? “Clinical depression is far more complex for it to be triggered by a single factor. However, adequate sleep, balanced diet, regular physical exercise and some form of meditation and mindfulness exercise will minimise the chances of getting depression,” says the 54-year-old author, who also shares that she likes to cook whenever she feels stressed as she finds it therapeutic.