Regular Mental Health Check-Ups Can Help

The illness manifests uniquely in each individual, and symptoms are easily confused with everyday emotions: Pushpa Venkatraman

If there’s one way to defeat the stealth mode that depression operates in, it could perhaps be seeking mental health check ups more regularly. “The illness manifests uniquely in each individual, and symptoms are easily confused with everyday emotions,” says Mumbai-based psychotherapist Pushpa Venkatraman.

“Flashes of irritability, a feeling of listlessness or a short temper are common, and manifest for a variety of reasons, creating confusion to discern them as symptoms of depression,” explains Venkatraman.

If a person is consistently irritable or angry, people assume that s/he is short-tempered. “No one questions what is leading to that type of behaviour. The root cause of the reaction remains unaddressed,” says Venkatraman.

Symptoms of depression are commonly treated by society as a passing phase. It is assumed that ‘things will get better’ if there’s a change in environment. “People are often advised to try and adjust with their situation, or loved ones suggest change in location, job or starting a family as the solution for feelings of despair or listlessness,” says Dr Rizwana Nulwala, psychotherapist and consulting counsellor at Urja Trust, Mumbai.

Then there’s hesitation to seek help. “When people are depressed, they don’t seek help,” says Dr Nulwala.

“It’s not because they don’t want to get better but because they don’t feel motivated, which is one of the most significant symptoms of depression. The feeling of despair that depression brings with it makes them feel that even therapy won’t help.”

From her years of practice, Dr Nulwala says patients often don’t show up till the second or third appointment. “It becomes important for loved ones to motivate the individual to seek help.”

In most cases, more time is lost because people don’t understand the concept of a counsellor,

Venkatraman rues. “They don’t feel it as an impactful profession, as they don’t see any tangible results. They think it’s just about paying someone to listen to their problems. Professional advice helps an individual iron out their beliefs and cognitive distortions for improved functionality in daily life.”

Who do you visit, a counsellor and or a therapist then?

“When you have a specific issue such as a relationship problem or difficulty adjusting to a new environment, you visit a counsellor. You work together on the current issue and the sessions end once the goal is met. Psychotherapy is more involved and long-term, working towards behaviour modification and healing. Help a therapist recognise the root cause and how depression has manifested in the symptoms that they thought was the problem. Depending on the case, a psychotherapist may work along with a psychiatrist, who is the only qualified professional to prescribe medication,” Venkatraman explains.

Due to the unrecognisable nature of depression, both Dr Nulwala and Venkatraman agree that if one can sense the symptoms related to depression for two weeks or more, at least one session with a counsellor is a healthy practice to adopt. “If we broaden the way we look at counselling and mental health, we should go for a mental health check-up just like one would for a regular health check-up.”


1.      As per WHO estimates 322 million people globally suffer from depression

2.   56 million of those suffering from depression are in India

3.   The illness lurks unrecognised in one in 20 Indians.



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