#MeToo Movement: Mental Health Experts Gauge the Aftermath
The #MeToo Movement took the world by storm a year back. And arrived a year later in India....and continues to make skeletons fall off the cupboards. As per the current news trends, it will not be wrong if I write that it has not only gripped the nation's imagination, but its online space as well.
But we are not here to talk about yet another #MeToo story. We are here with a few mental health experts to gauge the impact the movement has created.
Yes, you read it right. The movement is not just having an impact on the mental condition of the accused and the accuser, but also on the general public that is consuming all this information on a daily basis.
I spoke to a few women who have faced the trauma as well as some mental health experts worldwide through a fortnight and charted out this report: #MeToo Movement is having a deep impact on the Mental Health of even the common people.
How? let me detail...
#1. Recalling Past is Killing
A manager-level employee in the hospitality industry, Radhika Srivastava tells me," I am of the few who brought my harasser to justice in six years time, fighting a lonely battle in my previous office. I was at the front office in the service sector. I have faced sexual harassment, like most of us have, during a bus ride in New Delhi. As a college girl, I had decided not to let it happen in future. So I took up the cause when it happened at my first workplace. The man was shown the door, six years later. I threw a party, the day I won the case, to show thumbs down to all who had failed to support me. I wrote about it openly on my blog recently, even naming and shaming the person, when the #MeToo movement began in India. But then, the fact of the matter is that triggering my own past left me depressed for a couple of days. I feel really disgusted to think about it...and even those college days. It feels like scrubbing shit off your body again and again."
Clinical psychologist and trauma therapist, Joana Maria from Spain informs me, "Since the onset of the #MeToo movement, I encounter at-least two such cases per week. I am all thumbs up for women coming out to speak up, but it also creates mental chaos. These cases are not the ones who have come out in open, but those who have read others doing it. Their buried past has been sort of excavated by their unprocessed memory and they call me to seek solace, especially because 50% of them don't know how to deal with it since they don’t want to open up in public!".
Maria adds, "They are confused about whether they should or shouldn’t call out their perpetrators. They are anxious, angry and feeling suffocated with bottled emotions in this high-intensity atmosphere." She goes on to add that the relieving part is that most of these cases are coming through families that are helping sexual harassment survivors approach mental health experts to like to help deal with their mental trauma, to seek a feasible solution. But then Maria adds that there is no immediate relief to this trauma from the past and at times she has to resort to subscribing sleeping pills, sedatives to her patients - such strong is the memory in these cases.
(Also Read - Acts & Tips To Be Safe From Workplace Sexual Harassment)
#2. More & More Wish To Discuss It
In addition to her usual clients, clinical psychologist and psychotherapist, William Noah from Sydney, Australia is suddenly seeing a spurt, that too the in #MeToo category.
"Women are really anxious. The movement has rubbed salt on a still-raw wound from the past. Whether they are able to talk about it to their families or not, whenever they are reading about a new case, it is making them relive their own abuse." But then Noah is of the opinion that in a way #MeToo movement is a great outlet for these women to speak up to a mental health expert, vent the trauma out, discuss it out and find a way to move on.
A very reputed journalist of India and one of my good friends, on condition of anonymity, says, “I have faced so much in this media house which touts to be one of the best. This immediate boss of mine would always get away with his sleaziness because of his position, and also because some of my female colleagues would let him treat them like a doormat - just to get a pay hike or be assigned an On-camera position. We all have seen that, no? Don't say NO, because the degree may vary, but not just Bollywood, casting couch is rampant in other media houses & the news industry as well. God knows how many vulnerable women these....(abusers)...have targeted. And I know so many of these predators today, who are now-a-days pretending to be allies of feminism, but are actually big time sexual offenders. I am a single mother of two. Who will employ me if I expose this B....(abuser)? No, one will stand by me I know. How do I vent out my trauma considering the fact that at this age, I know nothing but journalism to fend for my daily bread?"
At this juncture, clinical psychologist and psychotherapist, William Noah, writes to this friend of mine: Dear XYZ. "Talking to someone who cares and shares your pain, takes away the shame and discomfort that has been bottled up inside you. And that's what helps you move on. So the movement on one side has its negative impact on the mental health, on the other hand, if you approach the right person to talk to, it can open up a great, peaceful life ahead. If you wish, do come on Skype chat with me. I will help you move on. Love, Noah."
I too find some peace in her words...through her words, after all, we all have had our share of #MeToo trauma, be it a shady street, an office or for that matter a local bus or train. All of us have gone through it, lived it, braved it...we all are survivors in our own little ways.
#3. Anxiety, Mistrust Among Other Women… Too
Yes, women, who haven’t been directly affected too, are anxious. And as per psychiatrist Dr. Chandrika Bhandare from Pune India, "Many women coming to me in this category are women who are either mothers/daughters or women working in high-pressure environs or those who are from the same industry where a sexual predator has been exposed. They don't know whom to trust now. For instance this chartered accountant I met last week. She told me how she looks at her jovial boss with a different sight now. Once a humorous boss, she reads deeper into her jokes now - though nothing spotted so far."
Here another psychotherapist Farah Naqvi cites a case from her files dated October 2018," I can clearly recall the fear of this mother of two young twins, who are about to join their first job in the fashion industry. She is too anxious about her girls' future. #MeToo movement has left 'the other women' deeply worried as well."
#4. Even Some ‘Sane Men’ Are Scared!
Yes, you read it right, again.
Psychiatrist and psychotherapist, Dr. RC Jacob is on a deputation for a year to a country from the Middle East, whose name he is unwilling to reveal. I approached him through a friend who happens to be his extended family. And once trust was established, he speaks to me on phone," People are shocked and disgusted. And not all men are at fault. You also know it Mahima, you can't' deny the fact that at times women also try to settle scores. And amid all this shitty confusion, some other men are scared. Like this assistant of mine, who wanted to be shifted to the calling desk and not work as the one who would escort women to my cabin. I asked him why? He replied that one of the patients didn't like his happy-go-lucky nature, his wide smile that sued to welcome them to the clinic. She apparently threatened to complain against him to the higher authorities if she saw him 'grinning again at her.'What insanity is this? I am not defending men or targeting women, but this is reality. You may ask your male colleagues or friends in India. You will find out that what I am saying isn't wrong. THE SANE MEN ARE SCARED, TOO!"
And I decided to do a random check among friends, extended family, etc. And among the various cases that comply with what Dr. Jacob had told me, one was that of my former media colleague's 21-year-old nephew. He got a consent letter signed from her steady girlfriend of 3-years, to buy her a drink at the pub! She says," he texted me that night after getting that written consent in his hand. He texted that media is after men's lives, without even a #MeToo case being proved. And that is ruining existing relationships."
On the other hand is one of my other friends who now greets his women colleague with a NAMASKAR (joined hands) rather than a handshake, since he says he doesn't know which woman might abruptly say she didn't like the touch! Ouch!
How To Cope With This Mental Pressure?
Dr. Farah Naqvi from Mumbai, India suggest the following measures to one and all:
A) Speak up -
Discuss the mental trauma that you are holding close to your chest - preferably with a mental health expert, as only an expert can guide you how to move on. Till you meet the expert, vent out with a person you trust.
B) Pay attention to the mood swings of your loved ones -
Your family member, your friends, your colleagues - especially a woman. She might be fighting a lonely mental battle. Help her out, by being her emotional cushion. And later guide them to talk to a mental health expert.
C) If you are a 'SCARED MAN' remember, you will always win in life if you have done no wrong -
Come out of misconceptions, step into reality and start reliving the peaceful life you had been. But yes, staying cautious is no harm, staying over cautious will lead you to depression.
D) It's good to keep track of news and protests, but learn to toe the line -
Don't keep reading and reading again about the same kind of news. Always buffer a bad news by switching to something that brings you back to a normal mood.
Lastly, don't forget to share this piece among your circle, you will surely end up healing a wounded soul.
(Also Read - How Rohini Prajapati Helped Her Colleague Get Justice)