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Mental Health in India

On » Thursday, February 10, 2011 //
I know what you will be thinking by the time you reach mid way of this post - "Why am I reading this? I've got no problems! I am perfectly Normal". Yes even I know that you are 'normal'. But there are others whom you may be directly or indirectly related who are affected with mental illness, for whom you care... so read on...

We live in a country where our fear of mental illness is so deep rooted that we tend to become irrational when we think of those mentally affected. Our society has been stained with so many misconceptions and wrong theories about mental illness. I want to ask all of you who consider yourself to be a part of this 'NEXT" generation, how many time have you giggled at a roadside beggar wearing some filthy clothes, muttering and laughing to himself. I am sure most of you have. Honestly, even I was no exception to this...

But have you ever wondered why did you laugh at that guy? You would say, because he is Mad! So? Would you have reacted similarly at a person with high fever or say having Diabetes or any other damn illness? I am sure you would not!

Today we still hear news that Women are branded as "witches" (chudail) and then burned or stoned to death in many pockets of our country. Elders still see mental illness as some 'Devil's possession'! And what is the solution they teach us? Beat such 'deserving' victims with broomsticks and lathis and 'drive away' the spirit out of their bodies! It was not long ago in our soceity that patients with psychosis were taken to an asylum, usually very far away from the 'normal' civilization and chained so that others could live safely. But in between these hard truths there's also something to smile about. Atleast certain portion of our society has come a long way in giving the mentally ill, a treatment that is far more humane...

I did a short post in Psychiatry few months back in a public hospital. People including even my relatives raised an eyebrow on my decision! They looked suspiciously at me. "Kirti tu bhi paagal ho jaayega kuch dinon me, chod de ye sab!" (Kirti, even you will go crazy in few days, leave this post)

'Paagal'... Now that is something i sure giggle at! I wonder often, who must have 'invented' this word! The nearest english analogue of paagal would be 'Crazy' or 'Mad', right? So aren't you crazy about so many things in your life? So should i call even you as 'paagal'? Baseless theory right? So are many theories about mental illness in our society.

Ask people around and most of them (70%) will say a person becomes mentally ill because 'uska dimaag kamjor hai' (his brain is weak). But the fact is that mental illness cant be "cured" only by 'strengthening' your mind or your will power. What happens next? The ill person becomes more and more aloof. A blanket of guilt and secrecy covers him thereby blocking every possible intervention which could have pulled him/her out of that loneliness till the situation gets out of hand.

But here i want to ask each one of you have you ever ignored that nasty cough or that 100+ fever? So my question remains, 'If your physical body is so special to you, your brain in fact is the most integral part of it! Then why ignore mental illness? Why laugh at some one whose brain has fallen ill.' Everyone who has a heart can get a heart attack, similarly everyone who has a brain can have mental illness! And so if you still think you are immune to mental illness, well... you know what I mean.

Indians always cry over racism they face on the basis of their colour. But aren't we Indians racist when it comes down to stigmatizing people with mental illness and branding them as 'abnormal'?

The need of the hour is to wake up and embrace a new ideology towards mental health. Its time to break away those shackles of old ideas and myths and misconceptions and think responsibly and rationally when it comes to meeting a mentally ill person. Such a person is not 'dangerous' or 'funny'... deep inside he/she expects a small gesture of love and understanding from you...

So tap your brain a bit if you really think you are 'Normal' and think about this... Rather than pointing your finger at them, let your helping hand be a reason for light in that lonely darkness...

Take care

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