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  • Meghna Chaudhury

Notes on Mental Health Care

A technique used in therapy (and even first aid) is this idea of subjective units of distress (formally called the SUDS ). The SUDS scale works this way : you work with your therapist to identify, on a scale you chose, on what causes you extreme distress (say a 10). You then get to choose which one/s you want to bring down to a lesser number and you decide that based on the capacity you have at the moment.

I've informally known of this for sometime now, my work afforded me formal knowledge recently.

Here is why I've loved it so much.

It acknowledges that everyone's anxiety is subjective. It means something as simple as strobe lights can cause extreme distress to a person. It takes into consideration individual history, context and provides the person with the agency to design their own intervention.

So many times in my life I've had people tell me, mostly unwittingly and often with kind intentions, that this is "way too small a thing to be this triggered by". Or, "you have a home, a family, this is all in your mind". Or, "think about people who have nothing, not even a place to call home". It is/was very breaking to hear this.

Language like this absolutely invalidates individual struggles.

Most war veterans, for example, remain in hyper-vigilant states and suffer from poor sleep. Noise triggers them, including the most unassuming tick-tock of a wall clock. It is disempowering and I would consider it very unfair if they were told and reminded that clocks are benign tools designed for human convenience and that their response is invalid. You cannot negate that the tick is similar to the click before a bomb is released.

Fear/ Anxiety responses are never valid or invalid. They just exist on an adaptive to a maladaptive range. The mal-adaptiveness of a response is decided by the individual. In the case of the war vet, it is maladaptive for them because it would make entering spaces that have similar sounds difficult. It would bring their bodies to fight mode, which would hamper the experience they intended on having in that space.

When I read Foucalt, he talks about interrogating power from a bottom up perspective i.e. to say, investigating behaviour on individual levels to figure out how they became institutional/legitimate knowledge. When you tell someone who has severe mental health distress that it doesn't make sense for them to feel this way, you're asserting a power position by deciding what is a legitimate and illegitimate emotion/response. It stops them from seeking help, it breaks every inch of their being. An incredible stigma comes into place, and it pulls them into a prison.

As the team and I at BrainSightAI build our newest product at the intersection of autonomy, neuroscience, care and mental health, we wish that that this year is kinder to you and your loved ones.

Intrigued by what we are working on and would like to contribute? Please reach out to Meghna at

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