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Sunday, April 14, 2024

What the world of Harry Potter teaches us about mental health awareness

As Global Mental Health Awareness month comes to an end, Dr. Taimoor uniquely portrays society through some of the favorite characters from the famous Harry Potter series.

J.K Rowling’s fandom became captivated with her magic ever since her first novel, the Philosopher’s Stone. We eagerly followed our favorite characters’ journey until the very end when they united the Deathly Hallows, and even today, imagine their existence in actual societies.

Starting with shy Neville Longbottom, who was often at the bottom of his class in almost every aspect of academics, (except the subject of magical plants i.e. Herbology) today, we see people excel in certain academic domains in lieu of conventional academics.

I can speak for a very close relative of mine who could not manage a single ‘A’ grade throughout O and A-Levels but currently maintaining a 3.0 GPA in Computer Sciences and that too from a reputable university.

Read more: Revamping education in Pakistan through digitalization

Harry’s academic journey was very much the same. He was remarkable on the Quidditch field and always received top marks in Defence against the Dark Arts (DADA).

Despite their unique talents, both pupils were persistently and unabashedly mocked by Professor Severus Snape for their relative dimwittedness in the art of Potion making. However, they both acquired lucrative careers later on in life. Neville became a reputable Herbology Professor and Harry fulfilled his life-long ambition of becoming an Auror with The Ministry of Magic.

While all this happened in a world which transcends reality, the academic experiences that both Neville and Harry had are similar to our own world. Students are sometimes bullied by teachers for lacking certain academic qualities, which often shatters a student’s confidence, as was witnessed with Neville.

Read more: How to develop critical thinking of Pakistani students?

Therefore, one must always encourage children/pupils to simultaneously realize and pursue their interests, and refrain from closeting their focus on conventional academic endeavors.

In the end, a student’s mental health and emotional well-being rebuke all academic achievements or struggles. Students must never blindly measure themselves through benchmarks set by other students, parents, or even teachers.

Having said that, the important role a teacher plays in a student’s life cannot be undermined. Of all the teachers at Hogwarts, Professor Severus Snape i.e. the potions master was despised by many, befriended by few, and loved by perhaps none. Interestingly, his character was based on an actual chemistry teacher from J.K Rowling’s life.

Read more: Britain universities wake up to students’ mental plight

Severus’s persona highlights the need to accept difficult people in society; showcasing strictly reserved behavior yet having the strength to become available when necessary, even sacrificing it all for nobler causes, he asserts the need to always weigh good traits against undesirable ones for people are not split into good and evil.

Second chances abound

An old colleague of Severus, Remus Lupin, and better known as Professor R.J Lupin, despite being a part werewolf was hired by Professor Dumbledore to teach DADA. Amazingly so, Lupin was friends with Harry’s father, and soon became Harry’s favorite teacher. In fact, Professor Lupin became many students’ favorite teacher due to his kind nature, and his practical approach towards DADA.

For the first time, even Neville enjoyed studying DADA as Professor Lupin encouraged him to conjure his spells and praised Neville for whatever effort he put into his work.

Read more: World’s Teachers’ Day – The status of Teachers Must be Improved!

Alas, the DADA post at Hogwarts was possibly cursed since no teacher lasted more than a year and Lupin went back to isolation from a selective and overly cautious society. Had it not been for Dumbledore’s open-mindedness and mature leadership, both Lupin and Snape would never have found a home or job at Hogwarts.

Lupin was already an outcast, but Snape had a murky past as a Death Eater. Only Dumbledore believed he had renounced his old ways and Snape’s love for Harry’s mother inspired unwavering protection from his end for Harry, always.

Both professors died fighting against evil. While Snape’s death reiterates that true love lasts a lifetime and is devoid of materialism and physicality, Lupin’s sacrifice demonstrated that people shunned by society for the wrong reasons can voluntarily become great warriors in times of war.

Read more: Socially embedded corruption in our society

The greatest leader of them all

Societies lacking leaders like Dumbledore must make efforts to safely assimilate people with behavioral issues, involuntary violent outbursts, or physical disfigurements into society.

Let us pay further homage to the persona of Albus Dumbledore who despite being brilliant & wise chose a much less glamorous lifestyle where he focused on nurturing young pupils rather than accumulating gold, Elixirs of life, or political prowess.

Read more: Op-ed: In quest to win power, leaders often generate huge problems

He exemplified that nothing lasts forever. He is a beautiful contrast to those individuals who even in old age cannot give up pursuing wealth, power, and prominence in society.

More importantly, his character echoes the need for the strongest to voluntarily step up and take charge in the darkest of times so people know that, “Help shall always be given to those who ask for it”. He was the first to voluntarily embrace sacrifice in the face of dark arts.

The odd ones

A few characters were just odd, notably Luna Lovegood and Arthur Weasley. Luna was popularly known as ‘Loony’ for her eccentric beliefs and unusual demeanor. Although harmless, she was often the butt of the joke in many situations and never taken seriously. Hence she led a solitary life until finally meeting Harry.

Arthur Weasley, even though not eccentric had a peculiar fascination with the non-magical world. Despite being poor, shabby, a father of seven, he was always excited about his boring low-paying job. He was also regularly ridiculed for having muggle-like [i.e. humanly and non-magical] hobbies.

He is a reflection of those good people who are often mocked and ridiculed for having substandard simplistic interests in a highly modernized society, yet who always work with enthusiasm.

Read more: Human rights issues in Pakistan: Predicament of a common man

He reminds us that real happiness for fathers lies in going home every day to family no matter how small the house, for the home will be merry if all are happy inside. The realities of an overly capitalist racist society that is unwelcoming to people who sympathize with different races are undeniable.

Luna on the other hand reminds us of people often ridiculed for eccentric behavior and beliefs which are otherwise harmless. It is defined as a personality disorder in people i.e. ‘Schizotypal’.

Additionally, there are several personality disorders including Schizoid, Narcissistic, Histrionic, and Obsessive-Compulsive personality disorder to name a few. Such people can co-exist and be accepted through extra empathy and avoidance of unwarranted bullying, etc. Luna may have been somewhat Schizotypal even if not entirely and eventually became one of Harry’s most loyal aides.

Read more: The simmering pandemic: Mental health in Pakistan

Children, adolescents, teenagers, and even adults with undiagnosed Psychiatric/Personality disorders often face bullying-induced isolation and depression. The dilemma is highly understudied in poorer nations that lack Psychiatric health infrastructures.

All the aforementioned characters proved valuable allies for Harry who could barely compete with Lord Voldemort on any platform yet defeated him due to sheer perseverance, teamwork, courage, and self-belief.

He could not have survived without his friends and aides. Some were wittier than him, some more talented, some unusual and some utterly disliked him but together they were a force more formidable than Lord Voldemort’s whole Death Eater army.

Read more: Indian law college to teach Harry Potter

The final lesson here is to believe in teamwork and not solely in authority. In unity by putting aside differences, exponential strength can be found even against vastly outnumbering armies.

May 31st marks the last day of Global Mental Health Awareness month. Be it magical or non-magical realms, both are subject to the necessity of mental wellbeing.

The author is a medical graduate doctor who enjoys writing on fiction and non-fiction topics. He also pursues journalism and poetry. The author can be reached at tmrjanjua@yahoo.com. The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.