In a country where mental health is still considered taboo, a few voices are trying to make sense of the complex palette of emotions. These are the voices helping people overcome the dark side of reality and pushing them to do better because they can! One such voice is Dr Rashi Agarwal, a psychiatrist who tries to bust a lot of mental health myths so that you don’t hear things that you do around you to spread stigma.
Dr Rashi is a popular name on social media and talks about the mental health crisis and its common enemy that confuses people and keeps them away from treatment. That enemy is stigma. In an exclusive chat with Health Shots, Meerut-based Dr Rashi shares her journey and how she is doing her bit to make this world a better place.
Helping others was always a dream for Dr Rashi Agarwal
Born and brought up in a family of doctors, Dr Rashi knew from the beginning that helping others is what she would do after growing up. “I say this with a lot of privilege, both of my parents are doctors. They are my heroes and mentors. While growing up, I saw the kind of change they were bringing in people’s lives. That made me inclined to do what I am doing,” shares Dr Rashi.
Choosing psychiatry as a subject called for criticism
While there is a definite shift in the mental health narrative these days, it was not always the case. Dr Rashi found it hard at the time to do something in this space because it was not considered “conventional”.
“Psychiatry is not something that people would expect you to take upon in a first choice. So usually people are like, ‘Oh, did you not get something else? Why did you take this? I hope you won’t get crazy over a period of time, hope your personal life is going okay’ and things like that. So breaking through this, I knew that there was something to do where I could impact the maximum number of people still doing something which was different at that point in time. It would make me happy and have a social impact,” says Dr Rashi.
Helping even one person feels like my work here is done: Dr Rashi
Mental health is probably the only place where the doctor, the illness and the patients are stigmatised collectively. “I am a health provider, I’m stigmatised for being one, the illness as we all know is stigmatised. And the patients, the person suffering is stigmatised for being weak or for being not strong enough to fight that out. But thankfully, that is changing.”
Dr Rashi believes that a lot of it has to do with social media and the Covid-19 lockdowns that led people to talk about ‘unspoken’ issues. This was also the reason behind her beginning her social media page @drrashipsychiatrist. “The basic reason for starting it was that I had a lot of similar questions being asked offline and I felt that the answers were so simple and wanted them to reach the maximum number of people. When even one person gets the right information, a part of my work is done,” adds the mental health expert.
Mental health can affect your survival
You might think that your mind and body are two different things but they are not. Your emotional well-being can be both detrimental and beneficial depending on your condition. Dr Rashi says that if your mind is not working well, it is not going to function properly. Your mental health can affect you physically as well. Anxiety has been associated with stomach issues, so you are not able to eat well. It is associated with cognition, you are unable to think well. It is also attached to your breathing issues – you feel palpitations or your heartbeat pacing up, don’t you? So, we tend to overlook the physical aspect of deteriorating mental health.
“I hope one day we are able to check the level of depression or other mental health issues with a blood test. But that’s not possible yet. If your mind is not doing well, your physical health will get disturbed and you won’t be able to perform personally or professionally. Leave happiness, basic survival will be in jeopardy,” adds Dr Rashi.
(Dr Rashi Agarwal is nominated for the Health Shots She Slays Awards in the Mental Health Advocate category. To vote for her or to review our other nominees, please check out the She Slays Awards nominations!)