When your mind gets chopped into a million pieces by the bleeps and tweeps of messenger and social apps. When you can’t sit still for more than a few minutes without reaching for the fridge, the tv, the phone, or even more work. When you just said something, and you are already anxious about what the other person is thinking. When you are there physically but not there mentally. When you just spent hours together, but you already feel lonely. When people around you love you and regularly remind you of how good you are, but you just don’t believe them. When you feel no one cares even though people go out of there way to help you. When it’s a bright sunny day outside, but you just can’t get the gloom out of your head. When you posted something online, and it’s already the twenty-ninth time you are checking how many likes you got. When you are dead tired, but still spend hours tossing and turning in bed. When you start thinking your life sucks even though you have all four limbs intact.

Thats when you know that it’s time to consider hitting the mental health gym.

The numbers are shocking. According to the World Health Organisation, upto 5 crore people in India suffer from depression, and India is among the most depressed countries in the world. A study conducted by Assocham in 2017 showed that 42.5% of employees working in the private sector are afflicted with general anxiety disorder or depression. An online survey by ICICI Lombard found that 65% of Indian youth between 22 and 25 show early signs of depression.

India is facing a possible mental health epidemic.

If you or someone you know are experiencing many of the symptoms in the first paragraph, please seek help now. Here are some emergency helpline numbers.

I have been on the edge of, and even into that dark place a few times in my life. Here is one idea that has helped me find strength, satisfaction and give me the courage to fight back - having a hobby.

As simple as that. A good hobby is an activity outside of work / school, that you enjoying doing, believe you can get better and better at, and have the available time and resources to invest in it. For me it has been art - doodling, painting, sketching and cartooning. At a time in my life when I felt stressed, unworthy and chaotic, investing 3 - 4 hours per week in art pulled me out of the quicksand. The last few months have been intense for me. My saving grace has been a new hobby I’m developing - learning the harmonica!

In the upcoming weeks, I’m going to write more well research content about the power of having a hobby.

But before that, I’d love to hear your experiences about this? Have you even been to that dark place? How did you cope with it? Did you have a hobby or an activity you did regularly? Please share. This is extremely important. It could be the antidote to an epidemic of global proportions.