It’s not all in the mind
The case of two Noida sisters suggests that mental illness is not taken seriously enough.india Updated: Apr 17, 2011 21:38 IST
Most of us know about it but are either too nervous or too ignorant to speak about it. So, it took the horrific plight of two sisters in Noida who had gone over the edge to highlight the growing incidence of mental illness among Indians. That the sisters did not seek help as their descent into severe mental illness began is not surprising, few Indians will do so for fear of being labelled mad and ridiculed or shunned by society. Two out of five Indians suffer from depression which in its most virulent form can lead to self-harm, even suicide. Millions suffer from anxiety, mood disorders, schizophrenia and paranoia without quite realising that they need help. Such illnesses are often dismissed as the blues which can be overcome by simplistic remedies.
In urban areas, loneliness or a competitive work environment often act as triggers to mental illness without either the person affected or those around him being even aware that the condition warrants medical help. The prospect of going to a psychiatrist is usually met with resistance by the person and his family often leading to a worsening of mental health. It is heartening that mental illness is to be mapped in the second phase of Census 2011. If the extent of the problem is ascertained, perhaps, suitable provisions could be incorporated in the draft Mental Health Care Bill 2010 which, at present, leaves much to be desired on this front. An Indian Council for Medical Research study revealed that more and more people are suffering from a decline in mental health as a result of stress caused in the workplace as also social pressure.
The trend is no less in rural areas where such illnesses are often thought to be the result of possession by evil spirits and treated by quacks or godmen. The stigma attached to mental illness is so great that families prefer to shut those with overt signs of mental deterioration away from public sight.
The administration of most mental asylums in India is not designed to cure the patient but rather to obliterate their existence. The lack of importance given to this discipline is clear from the fact that there is a severe shortage of psychiatrists, psychiatric nurses, counselors, social workers and psychologists in this field. The mentally ill person should not be viewed as an object of derision or pity, most such problems can be managed through proper medical care. Often, timely counseling and the assurance of help can prevent those like the Noida sisters from crossing the line into mental illness.