Interview with Sohini Roy Chowdhury  —  Part 2

In the last part of this interview, Ms Roy Chowdhury has enlightened us about depression, especially its effects on men. Today is the time for the second part of the interview, and in this we focus on parents and mental health at home.

sohini roychowdhury - our clear minds

Can parents be affected with mental disorders, in spite of their age and experience? What are some warning signs?

Mental issues are not just some “phases” young people go through. Anyone of any age, from child to ancient, can be affected by mental health issues in India. In fact, according to Sohini, “It’s a big myth that just because we are old enough or because we are experienced enough we cannot be affected by these things.”

It would be a very wrong concept to take our parents as infallible. They are only human and to err is human, as we know. Indeed, as we grow we accumulate experience, much of which is quite negative by the sheer nature of the universe. Therefore, an old mind is a burdened mind. And sometimes the burden may become just that one bit too much.

We should not take our parents as superhumans.

“…In most cases, all the problems I see in my clients come through poor parenting or  unconscious parenting,” Sohini laments. “And even parents can be affected by depression, anxiety issues,OCD and so on… because they have issues in their own life… unfulfilled dreams, unresolved issues in childhood, relationship problems, etc.” 

But the problem is that parents, most of the time, are oversure of themselves, especially about the fact that their children can never know more than they do about how life works and there is always a hierarchical power that works between them. That leads to our next question in the row.

How can we talk to our parents about very personal mental health issues? Won’t they be offended? How to handle it properly?

“You need to be very ready about the fact that it is going to be a difficult conversation,” Ms Roy Chowdhury states matter-of-factly. “Secondly, you need to be very objective and not start the blame game. Don’t be critical or judgemental or don’t blame each other.”

Blaming your parents for your or any other family member’s mental health issues won’t get you very far. The conversation will turn into a fight quickly, and you won’t be able to get your message across. The thing here is to try to find a solution, instead of keep looking at the problem.

“Thirdly, you have to be ready that if your parents are not very open to this kind of conversation, they will not believe (you), or will not be open to this kind of thing.  So you will face certain emotions, certain comments.” Sohini warns.

As you can expect, this sort of situation calls for tact, discretion, and detachment. You will have to handle these talks very objectively, and behave like an unrelated third person in the scenario. The key to having a successful conversation with your parents about mental health is to stay true to the purpose and not get bogged down into arguments.

parents - our clear minds
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Good Parent or Bad Parent

Sohini Roy Chowdhury would prefer not to use those terms at all. Since most of our mental health conditions come out of our subconscious minds, the term “unconscious parenting” is far more apt to be used in this scenario. Parenting can’t be simply good or bad  —  because life is not black or white.

Sohini gives a very to-point example here, from her notes. “One of my clients during the therapy sessions was under the impression of being the cause of the suffering of her mother. And that was so deeply buried into her mind…”

The mother in this scenario was not really responsible for these statements, because she didn’t intentionally say these things. Because, no mother would really want to hurt their child. Plus, she was frustrated. The family was highly tensed because of ongoing feuds between the mother and the father —  which is never good for the child. This frustration would build up and eventually get passed on to the child. 

“In her effort to protect the child, she is also passing the guilt to the child and says that ‘because of you I am having to put up with so much’. Because the child is very vulnerable and innocent, she sees her mother crying and being upset and she doesn’t understand the complexity of a marital relationship. So, she thinks she is the cause of her mother’s crying and she is the cause of all the troubles.” Sohini explains.

“Because of you, I am having to put up with so much!”

You see, in this issue neither side is at fault  —  the mother or the child. The mother has no outlet for her issues because the father is unhelpful and obviously the rest of the family won’t interfere. And now the child picks up the insecurities and the deep-set guilt, and goes on carrying them for the rest of her life. 

Many outgoing people are forced to be locked up at home in the present pandemic situation. How does it negatively affect their minds?

It is quite serious for outgoing, party animals type people to be locked up inside their home all day in this pandemic situation. We were curious about how that shoe’s dropping, and Sohini delivers.

“I personally feel that it really doesn’t depend on whether you are an extrovert or introvert,” Sohini says. The idea that being locked at home would be very difficult for extroverts because “…it may sound like extroverts draw their energy from social gatherings and meeting people,… (yet) …extroverts are dealing with the pandemic quite efficiently.”

The lockdown is actually a great opportunity to reconnect with your family.

According to Ms Roy Chowdhury, extroverts will always find ways to drink their social fill. They will do it over social media, they will get more entertainment time. And what’s more, this is actually a great opportunity for the workaholics to reconnect with the family, which they have been ignoring. Indeed, the writer has personally felt this in effect  —  the lockdown has been a great bonding time with family and kids. 

If I have depression, can it be cured at home?

According to psychologist Sohini Roy Chowdhury, depression in milder forms is indeed curable at home. If a person is only at the starting phase or is suffering only light spells, then just a general therapy over phone can fix things. However, a more serious kind of depression will need serious counseling and even medication. 

The key here is proper identification of depression. If your conditions are stopping you from going through life normally, then this surely isn’t your light garden variety depression and you should immediately seek psychiatric help. 

depression - our clear minds
image courtesy: everydayfeminism

If the symptoms, on the other hand, are not strong enough to hamper your regular lifestyle, but are just keeping you down and tired, then you may not need professional help at all. “If your symptoms are mild to moderate, then definitely some lifestyle changes can be incorporated in your life to bring about some changes and help in the treatment, according to Sohini.

Healthy eating, sleeping, and exercising are key to not only a healthy body but a healthy mind as well. “Our body requires at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep every day. So we need to keep that in mind,” Sohini recommends first. “…Cutting down on caffeine, alcohol, drugs if you are addicted to, tobacco, sugar, and junk food” are key to a healthy eating practice.

“We have to be very mindful that we are eating the right amount of protein, fish, nuts, vegetables, and fruits in our daily diet in adequate proportion.” Sohini reminds us. She sees a pattern of bad eating habits in her patients, and there is a definite connection. Regular exercise is also another key area that one needs to follow to maintain good physical as well as mental wellness.  

Is being stupid a mental health issue?

“How do we measure intelligence or how do we measure what is stupidity?” Sohini questions the general public. Testing the IQ (Intelligence Quotient) of a person is done to “reflect a wide range of cognitive skills, reasoning, logic, problem-solving skills, etc. it is not a test of knowledge that you gather through education.” However, she proceeds to add, “IQ alone does not hold the whole story.”

“Life is far more complicated than that (numeric smartness tests) and it involves many parameters, many variables, so it is not a fully trustworthy measurement of success.” Sohini proceeds to give an example.

“We often come across people in our life whothink they are the smartest, always right and have the best opinion. They are the ones who are always writing offothers as stupid, uninformed or simply wrong. And it can be very much evident that this person has no idea of what he is talking about, however,he is completely ignorant about his own ignorance.”

“Wisdom is knowing when you are wrong.”

Interestingly, this phenomenon is well tested and documented. This is called the Dunning-Kruger Effect. According to an article in psychology Today, the people of the lowest actual intelligence regard themselves as above average intelligence. They are unable to grasp their own stupidity  —  but by a lot of talking they appear to be more smart than they actually are. 

This comes from a fault in metacognition (the ability to understand yourself). Only a person with a good understanding of himself or herself will be able to appreciate and measure other people’s successes as they actually are, and will not be biased by preconception.

The opposite is also true in some cases. A lower percentage of people with high IQ actually don’t have much of an opinion of themselves. Though we can post it over to the department of simple low confidence, still, there exist proverbs like “Wisdom is knowing when you are wrong.”

“No matter what you have done, it is a conflict between your own self-perception and the way others perceive you,” Sohini cautions. Therefore we should always take the word ‘stupidity’ with a handful of salt. Since, at the end of the day, isn’t it just opinions?

Meanwhile, if you have any issues that are troubling you, about your personal life, your relationships, your work, etc. that are disturbing your normal life a great deal  —  then you should absolutely consult Ms. Sohini RoyChowdhury who is a talented psychologist in Kolkata. You can find her in our resources section, or note the contact below:

Sohini GuptaRoy Chowdhury

Facebook: Rise up, Be Free – Mental Health Awareness and Counseling

Phones: 9836 069 962 | 033 4001 3954

You can also contact us directly using the contact form below or write to us at [email protected] to share what’s troubling you. 

Till next time!

Author: Swarna Karmakar

Swarna is an experienced content writer and marketer from Kolkata, India. His amateur interest in psychology, born out of mental health troubles he has experienced himself and among his friends and family, has led him to the dream that is Our Clear Minds. He works as a Senior Content Writer, and enjoys instrumental music and science fiction books in his pass time.