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Featuring HER (Women & MHA): Mahdiyyah Banoo

Twenty-two-year-old Mahdiyyah Banoo reflects on her experience as a third-year audiology student and the role of mental health in her field of study.

A quote by Glen Close that speaks to mental health has always stuck with me in practice and in everyday life: “What mental health needs are more sunlight, more candour, and more unashamed conversation."

As an audiology student in a field that focuses on rehabilitation, as well as being part of a generation who prides itself on transformative thought, I believe more awareness is needed to nurture acceptance and understanding for mental health disorders.

Mental health awareness became more apparent to me when I learned that what people struggle with every day is so much more than a diagnosed illness.

An individual may have their health condition managed with treatment, but what are the socio-emotional and psychological outcomes of intervention? Has overall wellbeing been prioritized? Has my role in their health intervention had a positive outcome?

As a society, we tend to receive an individual who has a cast on their arm more compassionately than someone who talks about having mental health difficulties. We see the need for pain killers as an essential means to cope and overcome what one cannot bear by themselves, but forget that anti-depressants serve the same purpose of coping and overcoming.

What a person needs for everyday survival and whether it is important tends to be determined by another. Mental health controls a person's functionality, yet it is stigmatised and believed to be something that people can control without intervention.

Awareness is needed to combat the stigma attached to individuals who require wellness intervention. Patient reluctancy to seek the necessary help stems from the perception of others and lack of understanding of mental health challenges.

What I always find fascinating about audiology is the concept of hearing loss, which similarly to poor mental health, is a hidden disability. The fact that the disabling nature of it is not made apparent upon immediate observation does not mean it is not there.

Without witnessing or experiencing the affliction, society is misinformed to believe it is neither disabling nor limiting to everyday functioning. This is not true. Not being able to see a disability does not take away from its debilitating nature and overarching consequences.

The mental health consequences of being sidelined by impairment have social, emotional, and psychological outcomes that a hearing aid will not merely fix.

We need to recognise that disability is not limited to a specific organ, but that addressing domains of mental health is integral to ensuring optimal functionality.

The population I am most accustomed to working with are individuals with communication disorders. It is difficult to explain in layman terms the everyday challenges these individuals are faced with because simple components of communication are often taken for granted.

I see people who are unable to express themselves using spoken language after a stroke or a child with a processing disorder who struggles to understand what is being said to them.

In cases with hearing loss, while I may have equipped the patient with the device to hear, they may, for the most part, face adverse social exclusion, isolation, and withdrawal from interpersonal situations because they feel disabled due to communication difficulties.

Mental health is so important to me because of the role it plays in patient compliance. Therapeutic outcomes are determined by the patient's willingness and motivation to be active in their recovery.

My advocacy is standing for holistic intervention and identifying positive mental health as a target outcome for any type of treatment required. However, progressing toward such an approach to intervention calls for recognising emotional, psychological, and social wellbeing as important markers for how individuals function in everyday life.

As a health science student, I have realised that my role is not limited to creating awareness but also fostering correct approaches to intervention. The crux of recovery lies in the multi-disciplinary team that I am a part of, where referral pathways that utilise psychological and counselling services are made available to optimise recovery outcomes.

I am now commencing my journey into fourth-year where we are tasked to undertake research within our respective field. I have expanded my interest in mental health and wellness matters to focus my research on addressing the experiences of individuals with vestibular disorders.

Vestibular disorders are a component of audiology related to balance difficulties. I have assumed an approach to understanding an individual’s experiences of vestibular disorder and the related socio-emotional and psychological factors that contribute to their overall wellbeing.

The aim is to draw awareness to the fact that the disorder itself may not be disabling. Rather, what disables is the emotional consequences, impact on social relationships, and psychological manifestations of living with a chronic disorder.

You cannot put a bandaid on poor mental health. It is so much more complex than that.

You cannot be the voice to dictate how another should think, feel or act.

I believe we need to be made aware of the importance of mental health intervention. Once we understand mental health, we will better understand each other.

Written by Mahdiyyah Banoo.

Thank you to Mahdiyyah for her insightful piece and contribution to To EmpowHER's Mental Health Awareness Month coverage.

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