Lend me thy ears: Let’s talk about listening this Mental Health Day

Listeners who are sensitive to the mental health condition of people from different strata and walks of life constitute important pillars in creating mind-positive communities.

We live in an age dominated by technological advancements where we can converse with anyone, anywhere and whenever we want virtually for free. But this age is also gradually spelling the demise of the art of conversation or communication. A rendezvous where you can pour your heart out without the fear of being judged is scarce these days. Be it friends or family members, people around are so busy thinking of their response to whatever we say that they do not actually listen to what’s being said. Do others do it in almost every conversation? The answer is yes. Do you yourself do this in most of your conversations? The answer yet again would most definitely be yes.

Today as we mark the World Mental Health Day amid a shroud of a pandemic, it is more imperative than ever to bring about some instrumental changes in our lifestyle and mannerism. And there cannot be a better start than finding a companion who would be there to just listen to us without any strings attached. When we talk about listening, we are referring to a practice wherein one would listen to us without advising. Blame it on the evolved life patterns or an intense unprecedented lockdown, many people are inclining towards seclusion. The introverted lot is compelled to get even more introvert, depression cases are showing an upwards trajectory and unfortunately, there’s a spurt in the number of suicide cases. And a major catalyst in all these is the non-availability of a proficient heeder.

But what’s stopping us from using the World Wide Web around us as a rescuer? There are a few established online platforms globally that promise a companion who we could speak to without any inhibition sans the fear of being judged. The idea is to urge people to open up and speak. It has been stated time and again that most people battling mental health issues or suffering from depression fail to muster the courage to speak up, owing to the societal stigma attached. This is where online platforms that offer you the opportunity to speak can be very effective. However, not much stride has been taken in this regard in our country.

A few months back when this thought first came into our mind, we realized that it was more about fulfilling our social responsibility rather than venturing into a professional endeavour. We wanted to create a ‘never alone’ moment for one and all. However, we had to overcome various challenges but as they say, when your intention is pious, you get the means to overcome all obstacles.

Coming back to the concept of online listening, it has to be done at different levels. For instance while the first stage would be to just listen, the next is to ascertain whether the speaker needs much more than a couple of ears. If merely listening doesn’t yield the desired result, the platform must be equipped to provide professional medical assistance. A person might need hypnotherapy or psychotherapy and thereafter might need the consultations of a qualified psychiatrist. This entails that when we choose any such platform, we make sure that at least these aforementioned services are being offered, for hopping from one to another in the search of perfect destination would eventually land us nowhere.

Now how do we ensure that the person on the other side is an active listener? Facial expressions and body language are believed to be the most important attributes of listeners as they manifest their attention level. Though this poses a major challenge in context of online listening, there are means to overcome the hurdle. Listener on such platforms can show their attentiveness through affirmations on chats, provoking the speaker to talk more and if needed, get into a video call. The other challenge that the listeners would face would be in dealing with pranksters. It is very important that the listeners/councellors are trained enough to identify such miscreants and curb their nonsensical bickering.

Listeners who are sensitive to the mental health condition of people from different strata and walks of life constitute important pillars in creating mind-positive communities. Going forward, it would spell the end of stigma associated with mental illness and the menace of loneliness. Remember, communication is a two-way street and both sides are equally important.

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World Mental Health Day 2020 world mental health day


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