Mental health – Smile Simi

Yesterday, 10th October was World Mental Health Day.

According to the National Health Mission (India) website

It is estimated that 6-7 % of the population suffers from mental disorders. The World Bank report (1993) revealed that the Disability Adjusted Life Year (DALY) loss due to neuropsychiatric disorder is much higher than diarrhea, malaria, worm infestations and tuberculosis if taken individually. Together these disorders account for 12% of the global burden of disease (GBD) and an analysis of trends indicates this will increase to 15% by 2020 (World Health Report, 2001).

One in four families is likely to have at least one member with a behavioral or mental disorder (WHO 2001). These families not only provide physical and emotional support, but also bear the negative impact of stigma and discrimination. Most of them (>90%) remain un-treated. Poor awareness about symptoms of mental illness, myths & stigma related to it, lack of knowledge on the treatment availability & potential benefits of seeking treatment are important causes for the high treatment gap. 

NATIONAL MENTAL HEALTH PROGRAMME (NMHP), Government of India

A couple of months ago, my friend Malathi Rai messaged that she had taken the first step towards film-making. She said that she worked on the concept, story and screen-play of her first short film, to be released on OTT, in collaboration with a young director – Kabir Thapar, winner of the Dada Saheb Phalke Award.

The film “Smile Simi” is on mental health and was released on YouTube to coincide with World Mental Health Day. Watch it below or here.

Simi is a teenage girl who seems to have nice parents and a comfortable life, but there’s an enemy in the shadows. In a simple way, the film shows how hard it is for the sufferer when no one understands what is happening in the mind, because it’s not visible. Positivity and happiness are miles away. The film also depicts how depression impacts the whole family and not just the person who is going through the mental turmoil.

Simi spends a lot of time on her phone, and she keeps track of what her “friends” are doing. This brought to mind American social psychologist, Jonathan Haidt, who has done extensive research on the topic of mental health. Along with Greg Lukianoff, he authored “The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure.” 

Last year, on ‘The Joe Rogan Experience’ show, he shared pieces of his research and his book. The video clip of the show can be seen on YouTube here.

He explained how depression seems to be higher in Gen Z (those aged 24 and younger – born 1996-2015) than other generations, and higher among girls than boys. They hypothesise that the spike for Gen Z has 2 major causes: overprotection, since the 1990s, and social media, since around 2010.

(Source: @JonHaidt)

In the video clip Haidt explains why social media affects teen girls much more adversely than teen boys. The increase for women in their 20s is small and linear – they got social media in college or later; it wasn’t so damaging. Social media makes it much harder, may cause chronic stress for many.

Coming back to Smile Simi.

While the film is about a teenage girl, it is worthwhile mentioning that depression can hit anyone. The TOI had a nice picture on Instagram, to help you catch the signs, before going through too much suffering or before it is too late to tackle. One can return to normal pretty quickly, through psychotherapy, counselling, medication (singly or in combination).

The film ends with this screenshot below. Do watch (it is just 25 minutes) and share to spread awareness about mental health.

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