We all aspire to be healthy and at times go to great lengths to ward off sickness. The fight against disease begins early on in life with responsible parents ensuring that their kids are administered all available vaccinations ((although there is a small lobby that is against this important preventive measure); as much as possible; they feed them nutritious diet (facing stiff competition from fast food chain offerings) and there is a growing consciousness about the benefits of physical exercise too (despite the allure of the idiot box and the computer).
As one grows in years the list of do’s and don’ts also grows longer—do not smoke/drink, do not overeat, do not starve, do not be a couch potato, do lead a regulated life, do eat a healthy diet, do exercise daily, do protect yourself from mosquitoes, do wash hands frequently, do stay away from pollution, and so on and on. And all this with the sole aim to avoid contracting airborne, waterborne, foodborne and life style borne diseases and have a healthy body.
But is this enough? What about mind borne diseases?
The WHO also recognizes that mental health is an integral and essential component of health: "Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity." Health is a state of well-being in which an individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and is able to make a positive contribution to the community.
To lead a healthy life, we must be healthy, not only in body, but also in mind and spirit—a fact that we often tend to forget or completely overlook. How many of us as parents and teachers consciously and relentlessly nurture a healthy mind and spirit in our children? We make great efforts (at times even ridiculous and foul ones) to send them to good (read expensive) schools to increase their intelligence quotient with the sole aim of outperforming their peers in their studies, to get a highly paid job. But we care two hoots about their emotional quotient. We goad them ruthlessly to be successful in life, but we fail to tell them how to cope with failure, and to accept a NO gracefully. We rarely strive to teach our girls and boys (and also ourselves) equality, tolerance, compassion and respect for other people’s needs and rights.
The results are obvious for everyone to see. We find an ever-growing breed of aggressive and emotionally weak youth who must have at all costs what they set their eyes upon—even if it involves indulging in petty or serious crimes. They are ready to kill and/or commit suicide at the slightest pretext.
We indeed are a nation of mentally sick people. Else why are female fetuses aborted; adult daughters and sons killed in the name of protecting family honour; innocent women and girls (as young as 5-6 years old) raped brutally; and human rights of the not so powerful trampled upon everyday?
This is more so in case of men, and as social constructs fan the flames of patriarchy, it manifests itself in horrific ways. We have physically healthy, yet perverted, men stalking the streets and lurking in homes, debasing women and girls and committing gruesome violence against them; high ranking officials in government and private enterprises involved in atrocious acts of corruption; religious heads reveling in stoking fires of communal hatred.
The rising crime rate, rampant corruption, increasing incidences of violence against women, communal intolerance and hatred, moral policing, are all signs that our country’s mind is far from healthy. And it is not always poverty or illiteracy that drives one to these aberrations that seem to be becoming more of a norm. A lot of those indulging in nefarious deeds are economically well off, professionally qualified and come from the so- called ‘good homes/families’.
So, on this World Health Day, even as scientists strive harder to combat existing diseases and we make new resolutions to nurture our physical health (the WHO theme for World Health Day 2015 is about food safety with the slogan ‘From farm to plate, make food safe’), let us provide safe and nutritious food for our thoughts too, so that we are able to not only cleanse our body of harmful toxins but also our mind of perverted ideas that prevent us from behaving and acting humanely.
And as Dr Charles Glassman says—“Remove anger, regret, resentment, guilt, blame and worry from your diet. Then watch your health and life improve.”
(The author serves as Managing Editor of Citizen News Service (CNS). Follow her on Twitter: @shobha1shukla)