Health & Life

intersex bodies

By Vaagisha Das for Cake:

David Reimer was born biologically male but raised female due to the result of a medical procedure gone wrong. Being ill adjusted to his state, David later transitioned to male at the early age of fifteen. Known as the John/Joan case, this was taken up as an instance of nurture versus nature, and later used to support the argument that gender identity is something that is inherent in an individual, and not something that is necessarily connected to one’s genitalia, i.e., it is unconnected to one’s sex.

Sex And Gender Are Not The Same

Sex and gender are two vastly different things. One’s sex is what an individual is born with – male or female depending on the genitalia, while gender – being a boy or a girl – is what is accordingly assigned to an individual at birth by the social order. In a society that cringes at variance, gender identity is inherently tied to one’s sex, and any deviation is sought to be ‘rectified’ as soon as possible. While some people are slowly recognizing the concept of being transgender, most are still struggling to understand that gender- and that too, unconnected with one’s sex- need not be binary.

‘Intersex’, Not ‘Hermaphrodite’

In all the confusion, the phenomenon of there being a ‘third’ sex is completely overlooked – what is contemporarily known as being intersex, i.e. when a human being has both male and female genitalia, or some variance of the same. Earlier, the term used for such individuals was ‘hermaphrodite’ (meaning fully male and female) which was grossly misleading, as this is not possible in humans. The correct term is ‘intersex’. According to the American Academy of Paediatrics, since intersex individuals are relatively rare (around 1 in 2000 babies), they are rendered ‘medical emergencies’ at the time of birth.

Image source: berlin artparasite's/Facebook
Image source: berlin artparasite’s/Facebook

Why Are Such Individuals Termed ‘Medical Emergencies’?

Society is conventionally divided in two sexes – the male and the female. This division, which exists at the core of every societal institution, also has the power to influence medical procedures, which firmly segregate between the two, and provide the courses of action to be taken, for example, female individual hits puberty at twelve, and a male individual at eighteen: medical treatments are undertaken accordingly. The ‘medical emergency’ situation arises when the sex is undecided, and consequently, the future of the child, both medically and in other areas discussed below, is called into question. In this case, the doctors apply themselves to ‘right a wrong’ – little realizing that there is no inherent error in the individual, rather surgery to alter sexual organs can harm sexual function instead.

Discrimination In Sport

This fear of the unknown seems to haunt major sports associations as well- the Olympic Association has enforced strict regulations on the testing of testosterone levels for women for fear of doping- it seems reasonable at first, until one realises that not all women are subject to it, only the ones ‘falling under suspicion’- i.e., the women who look masculine. Even after testing, if such individuals are found to be intersex, they are banned from competing on the grounds that they are not ‘real women’ and that their increased testosterone levels would give them an unfair advantage in competition- a claim found to be false, as the ‘extra’ hormone naturally present in their body does not give them an ‘extra’ advantage. Hence the controversy caused over the late intersex athlete Dutee Chand, who committed suicide following mass protests on the ground of her ‘not being a real woman’. This is gender discrimination, and in such cases, the only fair ground for testing would be to divide competing categories on the basis of testosterone levels, and this would be unrealistic in terms of costs and efforts involved. The lines between the ‘two’ genders are being blurred, making many uncomfortable.

Fear Of Intersex Bodies As Anomalies

In a bipolar gender paradigm, there is no simple social category for those assigned ‘intersex’- hence the doctors- and parents who think they mean well- increasingly opt for surgical corrections to bring biological sex in line with the assigned gender. This is with a view to firmly reinforce the concept of the duality of the sexes- and hence, the associated gender, according to the rigidly set social norms that strive to create increasing physical differences between men and women to ‘fit’ them into a pre-arranged system. The social order has evolved through careful policing, and anyone who is ‘different’ presents a potential threat- they could shake the entire cultural order of our society, and things would no longer make sense. Any sexual relationship that is non-heteronormative, and therefore untraditional, is often seen as bizarre, with people struggling to normalize the social order. Thus the worry about intersex individuals is this – if a male is supposed to desire a female, where does one place an intersex individual? Further, if a males and females are assigned the gender boy and girl at birth, how do you assign a gender identity to an intersex human being?

‘Hermaphroditism’ Is Natural, Yet We Continue To Shun It

Our anatomy affects our existence in the social order, in terms of how we view as well as interact with others- it even affects our rights and privileges. Our anatomy, and hence the gender identity imposed on us, are reinforced so often that it almost seems natural. However, it is important to note that this rigid ordering is not in fact so. Hermaphroditism in animals is very common – these animals have both reproductive organs and are capable of self-fertilizing, hence ensuring their survival and adapting themselves to live in difficult conditions. Slugs, snails, and a number of invertebrates are capable of ‘normal’ reproduction as well through the aforementioned process. In addition to this, there are a number of animals who are capable of sequentially changing their reproductive organs. When the male in a pack of coral reef fishes dies, the largest female ‘changes’ its genitalia and naturally transforms into male. How then, does one contend that intersex humans are ‘abnormal’ and in need of surgical ‘correction’? In this case, it seems a likely conclusion to draw that we are more concerned about the dictates of human society than we are about what is naturally prevalent in it.

Gender binary is just one way of ordering the world – it is not the only way. When taken into account the spectrum of gender as well as sexualities, it would be difficult to group individuals into any one of two options society makes available to us. Why not just let people be, without trying to label them or ostracise them on the basis of such labels?

This article was originally published here on Cake.

mental health illness depression ocd

By Vidyashree

I trained to be an Expressive Arts Therapist in 2012. Expressive arts therapy is the practice of using imagery, storytelling, dance, music, drama, poetry, movement, dream work, and visual arts together, in an integrated way, to foster human growth, development, and healing. It is about reclaiming our innate capacity as human beings for creative expression of our individual and collective human experience in artistic form. It is also about experiencing the natural capacity of creative expression and creative community for healing. Counseling and talk therapy are an integral part of the work of expressive arts therapists and are used as very strong aids to process the work created by the client.

I4012904148_ddded1b10d_on July 2014, I had my first baby. What followed was postpartum depression. Overwhelming feelings of sadness and unstoppable bouts of crying. When it happened, it took me a few days to realise and to completely accept that this had happened to me, a trained therapist! This was the real test of my training. To be able to apply all my belief in therapy and art. The first step to healing is always acceptance. Acceptance of feelings, acceptance of behavior of self and acceptance of the situation. No healing can take place in the absence of acceptance. I accepted that I was undergoing postpartum depression. I accepted that there were inexplicable feelings and I accepted that I needed to reach out and seek help. I also completely accepted that my ‘symptoms’ were separate than me, the person.

On one such evening of depression, I opened my diary and wrote a journal entry. I wrote about how wanting a daughter had been a childhood dream and how I felt when she was born. I felt better. The next day I wrote some more and I painted. Within the next few days, I also went and consulted my homeopath. She listened to me for close to two hours and just that made me feel a lot better. As a habit, I also shared my everyday feelings with my husband, close friends and my mother. I also cried a lot, without feeling ashamed. A combination of writing, painting, talking, crying and sessions with my doctors ensured that I was on my way to feeling better and feeling healed. It took four months for me to get over my postpartum depression. Some feelings of depression come and go even now, but the deepest feelings of sadness have disappeared.

I share this very personal journey with all of you to bring to light the importance and the beauty of healing. How it is imperative that each one of us recognise feelings that need a way out and then choose a way to let them out. The process of ‘letting out’ needs an anchor. An anchor can be an art form, a close family member, a spouse, a friend or a trained therapist or a clinical psychologist. This is a personal choice and one that has to be made with trust, openness and no judgement.

As a trained therapist and as someone who has herself made this journey of seeking help to ‘let out’, I would always recommend finding an Expressive Arts Therapist or a combination of seeking an art form and going to a therapist.

Please consider the following factors before making a decision about your therapeutic process:

1. Self-Expression: All therapies, by their very nature and purpose, should encourage individuals to engage in self-exploration and self-expression. A platform where this is made possible becomes effective from the beginning.

2. Active Participation: The experience of doing, making, and creating can actually energize individuals, redirect attention and focus, and alleviate emotional stress, allowing one to fully concentrate on issues, goals, and behaviors. How will a process of active participation be facilitated?

3. Safe-Space: The space where therapeutic work happens has to feel safe. The concept of safety can be relative and its notion is as much psychological as physical. Aspects like trust, rapport with the therapist, confidentiality, a non-threatening and a nonjudgmental environment, all of these contribute to safety. It is important that you ask questions related to the physicality of the space which will be used for your sessions. A neutral space is always a good idea – neither your house nor the therapist’s.

4. Affordability: You have to decide what works for you. There are clinical psychologists associated with every hospital, there are expressive arts therapists- difficult to find but they exist and there are therapists running their independent practice. There is also a lot of pro-bono work happening in the field of therapy and while individual therapists may not offer these services, there are organisations and NGOs and online channels which provide free services.

5. Stigma-Shame-Marginalisation: There is NO shame in seeking help. There is NO shame in going through depression, battling mental illness, fighting feelings of suicide. There is no shame in accepting that maybe your mental health is affected and it needs healing. Each one of us goes through cycles of a low tide in our mental health. Marginalisation begins with oneself. When you choose to go into a shell because you are ashamed of what is happening in your mind, you initiate the process of stepping away. It is crucial to remind ourselves every day that each of our journeys are sacred and precious and difficult. When there is no shame, stigma and marginalisation affect us less.

paint-328676_19206. The Person You Are: Who you are and what you want is the most important. How you want to heal is of primary concern while making this decision. How much time you want to take before seeking help, is your decision. A dear friend I know doesn’t take medication for her schizophrenia. Another friend I know takes medication for her depression and goes to a psychologist.What works for another person may or may not work for you. Rely on your intuition and your own understanding of yourself.

7. Seek Therapist Information:

a) Ask for information about where the therapist is trained from and what the body of work is like. This is important because when you make an effort to do research and seek information, you also take the responsibility for your therapeutic process.
b) Ask if the therapist is registered and works independently or is attached to a therapeutic establishment.
c) How will goals be identified for your therapy sessions? You may go with a set of goals you want to achieve, but as you make this journey, you will realise that the goals might change. For e.g. you may decide that you want to do seek therapy to improve your self-esteem. But in the process you will discover stored up anger from childhood experiences. The goal of the sessions will then switch to the theme of ‘anger’. And will eventually lead to enhanced emotional expression and self-esteem.

Mental health is imperative for a healthy society. I have witnessed some fantastic work that is being done in this field and I have also witnessed the evolution of people from ignorance to awareness to healing and then to empowerment.

And NO, therapy is not just for ‘the not normal’. We are all normal neurotics.

TRDLOGO1

Image source: Sami Siva/Medecins Sans Frontieres

By Doctors Without Borders:

Kisto Devi likes to sing. For more than ten years now, Kisto has been using her voice to spread health messages in her community. She is an Accredited Social Health Activist or ASHA, tirelessly reaching out to hundreds of villagers through her songs.

Image source: Sami Siva/Medecins Sans Frontieres
Image source: Sami Siva/Medecins Sans Frontieres

ASHAs, meaning hope in Hindi, are women who are identified, trained and accredited by India’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to conduct health screenings and referrals of sick patients to the nearest government health facility at the community level. Their role is to detect and refer those who need immunisations, a health check-up or treatment and are at the forefront of community health service on behalf of the government. Typically, there is one ASHA per 1,000 inhabitants.

We are not medical technicians or specialists, but we know a little about the diseases of this region; for instance we know everything about kala azar,” says Kisto.

Kala Azar, A Forgotten Tropical Disease

Virtually unknown in the developed world, leishmaniasis is a vector-borne parasitic disease that affects more than 12 million people throughout the world today. Visceral leishmaniasis or kala azar is one form of leishmaniasis that is most prevalent in six countries: Bangladesh, Brazil, Ethiopia, India, South Sudan and Sudan. Transmitted by the bite of an infected sand fly, kala azar mainly affects populations with the least resources. The disease weakens the immune system making the patients more susceptible to opportunistic infections. And it’s almost always fatal, if left untreated.

Vaishali is one of the most endemic districts in Bihar, a state known to contribute around 80-90% of the kala azar cases in India. Bihar is also one of the poorest states with a population of more than 100 million.
With the highest endemicity and concentration of people with poor resources, Bihar set the stage for Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) to intervene and start a kala azar treatment programme in 2007. MSF successfully ran a 50-bed kala azar ward, supported five Primary Health Centres (PHCs) in Vaishali and has treated more than 12,000 kala azar patients, free of cost. From conducting awareness sessions to ensuring rapid diagnosis and treatment for the patients, MSF has partnered with government agencies to ensure that treatment is not only effective, but free for all.

Songs To Remember

To support MSF’s work, Kisto Devi does what she knows best: she scripts songs on kala azar; melodies that are set to popular Bollywood tunes from the 80s and 90s. She tells everything there is to know about the disease – its symptoms, transmission and treatment. When Kisto Devi sings she points to the mud walls, to the buffalos and the dirt around the cowsheds to inform and educate people about the habitat of sand flies.

It is a very practical way to generate awareness about kala azar – without relying on posters, writing, or anything else that are sometimes difficult to understand,” says Chhavi Kumar, a health promoter with MSF.

Kisto has devoted her life to community work. She was trained by MSF and knows all too well the work the organisation has done in Bihar for the past eight years. ASHAs like Kisto not only focus on kala azar but also conduct a range of screenings and referrals. They help pregnant women seek facility-based deliveries, ensure timely vaccinations for infants, screen patients suffering from infectious disease such as tuberculosis, and assist in awareness-building around public health issues, hygiene and sanitation, and ways to access proper treatment and care.

I have known many people who have suffered from kala azar but didn’t know they had the disease. Some thought it was malaria. I help people identify the symptoms correctly and tell them what to do,” says Kisto. “I like singing for them,” she adds with a smile.

Below is MSF’s video that throws light on the kala azar disease and the challenges in treating the same:

leela khabar lahariya (2)

By Khabar Lahariya

KL Logo 2 (1)Editor’s Note: As part of Youth Ki Awaaz and Khabar Lahariya‘s collaboration, the following is the story of Leela, an 18-year-old from Banda. Having suffered a tragic accident, she is unable to afford treatment while the state authorities claim that she never came to them for help, highlighting the major structural problems of healthcare for the poor in India.

Zila Banda, Block Mahua, Village Kanjipur. Leela, 18, has been struggling to stay alive for a year. She has multiple wounds all over her body. She has been hooked up to a catheter for the entire year. Poverty-stricken, her mother and father cannot get treatment for Leela. Her mother has gone to many administrators, big and small, to plead with them to help Leela.

Leela’s mother Ranno told the KL Banda team that last year, 19th September, Leela went out with her friends to get mud for the whitewashing of the house. Leela and three other girls fell down into the quarry when a mound of earth they were walking on collapsed.

leela khabar lahariya (2)

Quarries are part of the landscape in Bundelkhand, and are often leased to powerful locals, known as the sand mafia. There are many mining projects going on in this region, given the abundance of minerals available in the ground, and often, people who live in the area find informal work in these quarries. However, there are multiple safety risks to the people who live and work where these large mining projects are going on. The risk of falling into the quarry because of improper safety precautions is one, but there are also other risks.

Recently, an explosion in a quarry killed seven and injured eight in Sonbhadra, which is about seven hours from Banda. In addition, mine workers are likely to be exposed to chemicals and suspended particulate matter all day, and get respiratory and eye diseases – and since mining creates air and water pollution, the health of non-mine-working locals also suffers. Development work in these regions, therefore, often makes the lives of the locals very difficult – as in the case of Leela and her family.

The zila administration came to get Leela out after she had fallen into the quarry. They even had to get a JCB machine to get the girls out of the quarry. The other three girls didn’t get hurt very badly. Leela, however, broke both legs, a hip, and some rib bones. When she was admitted to a government hospital in Banda, the doctors referred her to Kanpur. She remained admitted at the Kanpur hospital for two months.

“We didn’t have money for the treatment. We sold our land and gave the hospital 2.5 lakhs, but that only covered the treatment of one leg. One leg, the hip, and the rib bones still remain untreated.” Lying in bed for months on end, Leela ended up getting genital bedsores.

What Do District Administrators Have To Say About This?

DM Suresh Kumar says that if Leela’s family had come to him about this, he doesn’t remember. If they come again, the government can help in Leela’s treatment.

There are some major structural problems when it comes to healthcare for the poor in India. A 2014 study revealed that India spends less on public health than some much less developed sub-Saharan African countries. Household expenditure, and other private expenditure – that is, money coming out of the patient’s pocket – is, in India, 71% of the total expenditure on health. The government needs to seriously invest in healthcare to change this alarming ratio.

Large healthcare expenses, in the wake of an accident like Leela suffered, can often push relatively stable households below the poverty line. In January this year, Times of India reported that according to the draft of the National Health Policy, 18% of all households faced catastrophic healthcare expenditure in India, and over 63 million people face poverty because of this expenditure. This turns into a vicious cycle – poverty creates living conditions that encourage communicable diseases, which then cannot be treated because of exorbitant healthcare costs.

The government has multiple health insurance schemes. One of these is the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY) launched in 2008, which covers all of India and is one of the first insurance schemes that includes informal sector workers. It covers hospital care up to Rs. 30,000 for Below Poverty Line (BPL) people.

However, there are multiple problems with it. People need to be enrolled in this program to be eligible for benefits, which involves paying an enrollment fee of Rs. 30, which may seem like a lot to a household that does not have the ability to save and lives off everyday earnings. There is also a lack of information about RSBY in these areas, according to a study done on neighbouring states like Bihar and Uttarakhand. To build such awareness is entirely the responsibility of governmental entities – why did no one alert Leela’s mother about this scheme, or any similar ones, when she went to various government offices? Another barrier is frequent migration and travel among the poor (likely in search of work), which prevents them from registering when enrollment stations are open – a reality that a scheme to benefit informal labourers must acknowledge. Another, of course, is the lack of technical implementation – the scheme depends on “smartcards” which need to be scanned to deliver healthcare, and all empanelled hospitals or enrollment stations do not have the smartcard machines yet. Finally, another barrier is discrimination and indifference.

According to the RSBY website, in Banda district, RSBY is in its 5th year of implementation. Their goal is to enroll about 120,000 people. So far, 32,296 have been enrolled – about a fourth of the goal – and about 555 hospitalizations have occurred under the scheme, as of March this year.

Treatment Is Impossible Because Of Poverty

Leela’s parents don’t even have enough money to eat. Leela’s mother leaves her, lying in bed in her wounded state, to walk 13 kilometres into the jungle every day to collect wood which she sells for 20-30 rupees in the market. This is how the family sustains itself. Her mother says, “I’ve gone to everyone, from the Pradhan to the DM, to request them to get Leela’s treatment done. Nobody has agreed to help.”

Brought to you in collaboration with Khabar Lahariya.

Image source: WordPress

By Tabu Agarwal:

At a time when banning is considered the only solution to a problem, the Modi Government has done it yet again. The Supreme Court, with support from the ruling government is all set to ban commercial surrogacy in India, an industry that is worth $2.3 billion.

Image source: WordPress
Image source: WordPress

The curious case of baby Manji’s birth in July 2008, that made headlines, was possibly responsible for the amendments made in 2010 to India’s Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) (Regulation) Bill.

However, in a shocking move, the Supreme Court has again brought out a revised Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART) Bill to the table that is both a cause of debate and conflict. The proposed new law will allow surrogacy only for Indian couples and not foreigners. Moreover, only ‘altruistic surrogacy’ to infertile, needy married Indian couples would be provided after thorough investigation by competent authorities.

Altruistic surrogacy is when a surrogate is given no financial gain for carrying a child and only realistic out of pocket expenses are covered by the intended parents. Whereas, commercial surrogacy, which is the process in which a person or couple pays a woman to carry and deliver a baby, was always in controversy due to a host of complex medical, economic, ethical and legal issues that were open to abuse.

The business of commercial surrogacy in India is not unknown. Also known as ‘wombs for rent‘, India remains one of the few countries that still allows the practice, along with Russia, Ukraine, Thailand and so on. In India, about 25,000 children are born through in-vitro fertilization or the IVF technique. It is also the world’s no. 1 destination for surrogacy, but the sector goes unchecked and unregulated. The reason why this industry bloomed so rapidly in the country was because India became a cheap destination for foreigners wanting to use assisted reproductive technology. Poor women often used the opportunity as a means to earn their living. Also, local clinics promoted surrogacy arrangements because they were seen as profitable ventures. What is a cause of serious concern is the fact that can the ramifications that the ban would have on surrogate females and the industry prove to be counterproductive?

With the ban’s provision to keep gays and single people out of the surrogacy loop, paving way only for heterosexual married couples to avail the benefits of surrogacy, the entire law poses a serious threat to personal liberty and raises a question of gross discrimination.

Impoverished women who rent out their wombs in return for a handsome amount of money are generally the victims of an untold and unheard behaviour where they face exploitation, misery at the hands of unscrupulous clinics who cheat them and do not pay them the decided amount. They also run the risk of being physically exploited. Banning the practice will only result in it being carried out in a clandestine manner. Surrogacy as a reproductive technology is now too widely used and deeply entrenched to simply wither away in the face of a ‘ban’. In India, where there are no proper rights to protect the surrogates with the presence of an unregulated market, a ban will further encourage degrading treatment of the surrogate females.

Further, many women ‘choose’ to rent their wombs and consider the whole act and procedure as honourable and an opportunity to support themselves financially. The question that arises henceforth, is whether the government which was unable to lift them up from their present economic state is depriving them of this possible act?

The government, instead of banning commercial surrogacy should put in place proper measures that plug the regulatory gaps allowing surrogates to be exploited and fertility clinics to indulge in unethical medical practices. More stringent regulations should be introduced to stream out corruption and malpractices in the industry. Only couples who really need surrogacy after failed attempts at using other methods should be allowed to avail its benefit, in short, surrogacy must not be overused or abused. With a long history in India, challenging commercial surrogacy with a ban would be most certainly unwise and counter-productive.

Image source: LinkedIn

By Bhavna Sultana:

Get up!
Heavy traffic
Work
Heavy traffic
Sleep
Repeat

Most of us are victims of this infinite loop. Long commutes, extensive working hours, traffic jams; they all take a heavy toll on our health and also affect our level of happiness. Many experts will tell you that there’s a way out, that work-life balance is not really a myth. But, is it?

Image source: LinkedIn
Image source: LinkedIn

Deep down in our hearts we are all guilty of ignoring our personal relationships for the sake of fulfilling our work-related goals. Work is worship. But if you’re overdoing it to the point that you forget about your personal life, then it is a huge mistake.

I’ve come across many articles that point out the dark side of intense work culture. Most people overshoot their working hours, ignore their personal lives, health and even compromise on their safety. We exceed our limits despite knowing that it won’t bring us anything good. Many people are not even appreciated for the work they put in. In many instances, one doesn’t get good appraisals, salary hikes, but they keep on working. We are very much aware that what we do is not right, but we do it anyway.

What can be done? There are a few countries that have very flexible work laws. Sweden has recently trimmed down its working hours to 6 a day. The same level of productivity that was earlier achieved in 9 hours can be achieved in this time. The German labour ministry has banned out-of-hours working, which means one is not under any obligation to receive work-related calls after their normal shifts are over, except in the case of emergencies. I believe that this is a brilliant move.

If, however, big changes cannot be brought and the scenario remains the same, one can deal with such issues on a personal level. Here are a few tricks:

1) Utilize the long commutes

Long commutes result in a waste of time. If you travel by bus, metro or cab, you can utilise that time by listening to good music, watching educational videos, or you can even write. Nowadays one doesn’t even need a pen and paper, Google Keep or Notes will suffice for writing. You can also read.

2) Exercise

A desk job and daily commute takes a very bad toll on your overall health. Taking my own case, I started to feel pain in my back and legs mainly because of a daily four-hour commute. So, I joined a sports club nearby and started walking. It helped keep my creative juice flowing.

3) Try to avoid working on weekends/overshooting work hours

As much as possible, try to finish your work in the shift timings you have. Also, keep your weekends free, it is very important to recharge your batteries, otherwise your thinking capacity also drops down. If your shift doesn’t suit you, try negotiating with your seniors and if possible, take another shift if it helps you avoid long traffic jams.

4) Inculcate a hobby

We all let go of our hobbies because of a hectic lifestyle. I would suggest that you don’t do it. Find time for your hobbies. They will be the best companions throughout your life.

5) Spend more time with your family

We all know we’ve ignored them long enough. It reduces happiness, creates tensions in the relationship. Spend more time with them. Catch up with your old friends. Just don’t be too busy.

If all of this works out for you, then maybe work-life balance can still be achieved. As once quoted in Star Wars, “Be mindful of the future but not at the expense of the moment”.

artist-paints-art

By Janhavi:

I was some 6 years old when my family shifted to a new apartment. The idea of having neighbours was totally new to me and I loved it instantly. The first house I remember visiting was on the floor above our house. When we rang the bell, a saree clad woman opened the door and let me in with a huge smile. Her eyes were deep and her touch was as soft as my mother’s. I ran all over the house and saw a girl sitting on a chair. She was dark in complexion. Her neck was as if permanently positioned on the right shoulder. She emitted a profound odour which I noticed when I went closer to say hello. She kept staring at me and I stared back at her for a long time. After a while, she gave a huge smile with brightened eyes and I smiled at her as well.

artist-paints-art

“You can call her Tai. Her name is Sneha and she is my elder daughter,” the woman who opened the door told me from behind. While returning home, I told my parents that I would go and play with her every day after school. They agreed but told me to be extremely sensitive towards her as she was not a normal child. I asked them what exactly was her problem and they told me that she was ‘mentally retarded’. They made an honest effort to explain what exactly that means. At a tender age of 6 I could only see a potential friend in her. As I grew up, I came across many such children as if I was meant to meet them and befriend them. These encounters helped me deepen my understanding about various physical and mental conditions. Yet, Tai holds a special position in my life. Not just for the special bond we shared but because she introduced me to the empathy within me.

Now when I look back I realise that these were not mere associations, as I ended up choosing a profession where I keep meeting people with mental illnesses. But is that really a ‘mental illness’? I prefer to call it a mental condition. I realised this especially when I went to Brazil for a small internship in Dance Movement Therapy.

I worked at a place called casa dos sonhons (house of dreams). This was a government aided center where people came in for counseling as well as alternative therapies such as art, craft, movement, music and so on, free of cost.

One day when I went to the center, I found Miris, one of the therapists, sorting out boxes full of postcard art. I asked him what they were and what he was going to do with them. He seemed very enthusiastic to share the entire story. The postcards came from different mental rehabilitation centers across the world, made by patients having some or the other mental condition. On a closer look, I realised that I was looking at some intense artwork. My brain simply refused to accept the fact that it was made by people who we consider as ‘mentally ill’. I felt inadequate for flaunting myself as an art-based therapist.

Miris asked me to make a postcard on the theme of ‘How big is your madness?’ Without even giving it a second thought I picked up a piece of paper and a few colours to paint whatever came to my mind. I handed over that piece of paper and told him that I was no painter, but this is what came to me. He asked me to further describe and talk about the ‘mad one’ hidden within me. When I finished talking he said, “This is what it is! Madness is important. We as art based therapists here do nothing but help people find a direction for their madness. In this way they can make it big in their own possible way.”

Looking at my keen interest in arts and therapy, one of the psychologists, Cami Jacob, decided to take me on a tour of the main mental rehabilitation center in the city of Campinas. The first thing I noticed were the sign boards made of mosaic work which had been made by the patients who stayed there. Since she knew that I have worked with people with paranoid schizophrenia, the first place Cami took me to was the extreme trauma center. It came to me as a cultural shock to see a group of schizophrenics sitting under a tree sharing smokes and calmly talking to each other. I enquired about the type of treatment they received and she took me to the arts and crafts section. I saw people engrossed in some or the other artwork. I was surprised to know that this was a part of their core treatment. They utilise art to tell the most intimate stories of their life which otherwise becomes difficult for them to verbalise in a one-on-one counseling session. The walls of the room were filled with jaw-dropping creations.

We further went to the wood and metal workshop where I met a 15-year-old autistic girl who held my hand and took me to show her creations. My eyes could not believe that she was working with welding machines to make metal flowers. She wanted to give one to me but since it was freshly made it was hot and I could not hold it. I told her that I would collect it after some time. But she did not agree and went straight towards the water tap and held it under cold water.

The whole experience of visiting the mental rehabilitation center acted as an eye opener for me. The walls were painted with amazing graffiti works; patients were freely wandering around in the premise; the lawn was well maintained. The whole space was calm, peaceful and energizing. While returning home, Jacob said, “We take art very seriously. It is like one of the inseparable activities that we do in our day to day life. Hence, art becomes an important component when it comes to healing and therapy for people having a special mental condition.”

When I returned to India I felt like a complete alien. I realised that even though we say that India is one of richest countries when it comes to art and culture; we are not able to see the power that art holds. It has so much more to offer than just being a mere tool of entertainment. Many people like Tai might just find a way to make their lives meaningful as art would help them find their own way of expression.

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Abortion_protest_-_Barcelona,_Spain_(8133579204)

By Meera Vijayann:

Republican Presidential nominee Ben Carson came close to declaring a war on women’s health in America on Sunday. On NBC’s show ‘Meet The Press’, Carson defended outlawing abortion even in cases of rape and incest saying: “I will not be in favour of killing a baby because the baby came about in that way.” And just when you thought he could stoop no lower, he went so far as to compare abortion to slavery.

Abortion_protest_-_Barcelona,_Spain_(8133579204)
Image source: Wikipedia commons

But Carson’s regressive views are not uncommon. Back in India, abortion is, similarly, a sensitive issue. Despite Indian law allowing abortion up to a period of twenty weeks, women’s lives are still in danger. Women in large parts of rural India cannot afford abortion services, let alone primary care, when they are pregnant. In cities, social stigma still weighs heavily on women who wish to undergo abortions. The topic of abortion, in short, continues to be controversial, even in light of more open discussions among Indian youth about men and women’s health issues. Recently, a campaign on abortion stigma run by CREA and Youth Ki Awaaz invited a flurry of responses from young people across the country. These responses ranged from positive, encouraging messages to extremely negative accusations that abortion is “murder” and it is a “sin”.

So why don’t we set the record straight and dig deeper into those questions that people both in the US and India are currently debating about:

“Abortion Is A Sin” So I Won’t Support It

That’s fine. What’s important is that it is your choice for your body. In many religions, abortion is considered a sin. It is likely that if your views on abortion are weighed against the values that your religion dictates, it is hard to fathom. However, as citizens in a democracy, we are protected by fundamental civil rights.

Think about this: In many countries across the world, abortions have been refused to women on the basis of religious beliefs. In Paraguay, an 11-year old rape survivor was not allowed to undergo an abortion because of the country’s deep catholic faith. In the United States, House Republicans recently moved to defund Planned Parenthood, a national non-profit network of clinics that provides reproductive and maternal healthcare services for women, after a controversial video made by anti-abortion activists was leaked to the media. The video was proven to be false, yet Planned Parenthood came under intense attack with its Washington office damaged by arson. All this, despite the fact that a large number of beneficiaries of its services are women from low-income backgrounds who have little or no other alternative for care.

In the Philippines, which is predominantly Catholic, abortion is illegal and as a result, many women are shamed and forced to opt for clandestine and often dangerous means to end an unwanted pregnancy. There are nearly 500,000 cases of abortion and 1000 deaths in the country every year. Let’s not forget the tragic death of Savita Halappanavar, an Indian mother who died in Ireland because the State didn’t provide her an abortion on religious grounds. By opposing abortion based on your beliefs, you are placing your personal beliefs above a woman’s life and health.

“Abortion Is Murder” So I Won’t Support It

There are deep emotional, moral and social sensibilities associated with abortion. Primarily, there is a moral (personal reasoning) and an ethical (social reasoning) dilemma involved. Sex-selective abortion is a crime in India, but let’s get this straight — if a woman legally wishes to terminate an unwanted pregnancy, it is her sovereign right.

A lot of people who are anti-abortion have brought up the issue of a foetus’ right to life. They demand action against the mother for not executing her “duty” and want to take away the right to “murder”. Unfortunately, it isn’t that simple. In some countries, a foetus is not considered a human being until its birth. Recently, when House Republicans made a point to stress that abortion is ‘murder’, there were several debates around what constituted murder.

If you define murder as “the intentional killing of a human being” — would you also be willing to be held responsible every time a mother dies because she is unable to access reproductive health services? That immediately makes the debate lopsided.

Abortion is an intentional termination of a “pregnancy”. Many argue that for an abortion to be termed as murder, a foetus will have to first fulfil all the ethical points of what constitutes ‘personhood’. It will have to have a beating heart, a brain, a fully formed, functioning body – which it isn’t in the first few months.

“Abortion Is Against My Values” So I Won’t Support It

Ask yourself this: if I were to force you to risk your health simply because I believed in something and wanted you to act the way I would, would you consider that fair? The simple answer is no. While you have every right to choose against undergoing an abortion, it isn’t your right to dictate what a woman does with her body. Fundamentally, a woman’s reproductive choices are her own and it is a civic right for her to make a decision on her own. If you are asking why a woman wouldn’t choose to give birth and give the baby up for adoption, mull over this fact: adoption is NOT an easy alternative. In the US, there is 1 adoption for every 140 abortions. Children in state custody do not have an easy life either.

Second, if your family or community ‘honour’ solely depends on your impeding a woman’s right to an abortion or wellbeing, it’s seriously time for a reality check.

Globally, the reproductive health and well-being of women has become highly politicised around issues such as abortion, birth control and sexual health related treatments. Sadly, the people these decisions tend to impact are women alone. Whether rich or poor, in the east or west, millions of women are still struggling for a basic right to have control of their own bodies. I’ve personally seen so many women who are close to me undergo traumatic, secretive abortions and handle it on their own. In each case, it was different; an unplanned pregnancy, a marital rape, an abandonment. Today, their decision to terminate a pregnancy has allowed them to move forward with their lives.

Before we take a staunch position to oppose abortion based on our personal beliefs, take into account that, despite it being legal, one woman dies every two hours in India due to an unsafe abortion and nearly 20 million risks their lives walking into a clinic which has little or no resources to help them. If we put an unborn foetus’ life over a mother’s, it is nothing but a travesty.

maternal instincts

By Mark Elgar:

Many women hear an ominous ticking of their “biological clock” when they reach their 30’s, while others never hear it at all.

maternal instincts
Image source: Nagarjun Kandukuru/Flickr

Some believe the compulsion to bear babies is biologically inbuilt – even suggesting women who refuse their supposed evolutionary duty are being selfish.

Others hold the view that this so-called “maternal instinct”, also referred to as “baby fever”, has nothing to do with biology and is a social construct.

It’s unhelpful to explore this debate through a strictly dichotomous “nature vs nurture” prism. Both biology and culture likely contribute to our reproductive behaviour.

Reproduction doesn’t require any “inherited” preference to have children, since natural selection already favours mechanisms that result in reproduction, most significantly through the sexual urge.

But that version of the maternal instinct that relates to a mother’s ability and need to nurture and protect her child may indeed be hardwired, facilitated by the release of certain hormones and other necessary biological changes.

Sexual Urge

The exquisite diversity of past and present life-forms comes from a single critical feature – reproduction.

Individuals genetically disposed to be indifferent to sex will theoretically be selected out of the population, in favour of those with a greater commitment.

Sharon Sperry Bloom/Flickr, CC BY
Image source: Sharon Sperry Bloom/Flickr

It remains unclear whether the strong longing for a child, otherwise known as ‘baby fever’, is driven by our genes or is a social construction.

This is a self-evident feature of the evolutionary process.

Imagine a population of people or animals who enjoy sex, where that enjoyment has a genetic basis. This would determine their reproductive success. Now introduce into this population those genetically predisposed to be sexually inactive.

These sexually inactive individuals will not produce offspring, so there will be no sexually inactive individuals in the next generation.

In other words, a genetic disposition to avoid sex will neither become established nor maintained.

Some argue the so-called “biological clock”, triggering an enhanced awareness of reproduction among childless women in their 30s, is natural selection at work. Maybe.

There is some evidence that fertility decisions may have a genetic basis. For instance, studies that looked at the age of first attempt to have a child in Finnish populations showed children had similar patterns to those of their parents.

But these only proved there is a genetic influence for when women decided to have a child, rather than whether they decided to at all.

We are notoriously susceptible to the influence of others (witness the broad success of advertising and, one hopes, education).

So, like many other aspects of human behaviour, it remains unclear whether the strong longing for a child – “baby fever” – is driven by our genes or is a social construction.

Defying Biology

Until recently, sex and reproduction were inextricably entwined in all organisms. The discovery of contraceptive technology severed that nexus for one species.

With varying reliability, humans can now have sex without having babies. So in terms of biological evolution, a genetic preference for sexual activity is no longer equivalent to a maternal (or paternal) instinct to have offspring.

Amber McNamara/Flickr, CC BY
Amber McNamara/Flickr, CC BY

Through the contraceptive pill, humans have defied biology. There are many women in our society who aren’t interested in having children.

For instance, the number of US women between 34 and 44 who have never had children has increased by around 10% since 1976. And a survey of more than 7,000 Australian women between 22 and 27 years found nearly 10% didn’t want children.

My guess is that childless women aren’t necessarily sexually inactive – as natural selection likely dictates. But there may be little opportunity for selection to act on their personal choice.

It’s an impressive example of human behaviour defying biological evolution. But culture and technology have immunised humans from many selection pressures. Clothing, for example, allows us to inhabit cold environments unsuitable even for naturists.

Sex isn’t one of them though. Indeed, most cultures express more than a passing interest in sex – from the widespread inclusion of fertility rites in ancient societies to the almost unseemly obsession with sex in contemporary television advertising campaigns.

Nurturing Instinct

In many cases, successful reproduction requires care of the developing offspring. This is often, but not exclusively, undertaken by the mother.

Nurturing offspring is then a form of “maternal instinct”, as distinct from “baby fever”. And nature has built in biological mechanisms to ensure this.

Nurturing offspring is then a form of ‘maternal instinct’, as distinct from ‘baby fever’. For mammalian mothers, a demanding infant stimulates the release of the hormone oxytocin, which in turn triggers a flow of milk.

Oxytocin is also implicated in a suite of maternal behaviours throughout pregnancy, strengthening a mother’s bond to her foetus, which impacts on the foetus’ development.

The crucial, instinctive, nurturing response to feed the child, through the release of oxytocin, occurs only during pregnancy and after birth – otherwise the hormones don’t kick in.

For instance, virgin mice given oxytocin injections could learn to hear and respond to distressed calls of pups, something they were unable to do before the injections.

So it could be argued that the “urge” to have and nurture children is only ensured biologically through the urge to have sex, while the nurturing instinct is biologically inbuilt.

The so-called “biological clock”, then, may be ticking to a social key.

Mark Elgar is Professor of Evolutionary Biology, University of Melbourne.

This article was originally published here on The Conversation.

depression

By Rosanna Rodrigues

“I want to die,” she said. I couldn’t believe it. She was one of the most popular, most beautiful girls on campus. Full of promise. And yet she was serious.

Her chocolate almond eyes looked deep into mine, searching for judgment, shock, fear. She wouldn’t find it. This was a mantra I’d grown up with, repeating it to myself at several points in my life. It was the only thing that made sense some days. The abject insanity and palpable loneliness I sensed in my future was what drove me. I wasn’t, nor will I ever be, normal- and I knew it. I had acted on this mantra in the past. Had she?

Wordpress woman silhouetter

I asked her. She realized she was talking to someone who knew, who understood – a sister. Her words tumbled out, and I felt their weight, like a rock under a waterfall. Yet they brought healing for us both; for me, because the words were familiar – they were often my own. The song of abuse, betrayal and pain was not a new one for me. Fake smiles, forced laughter, forged strength –all things I know.

The Self

This is what it used to be like:

What’s the point, my mind screams at me. Pain washes over me in waves that radiate from my chest, left of centre. I’m paying close attention because I cannot understand it. And I feel like I should try. I’ve been living this for years now, this hell of insecurity, wrapped in layers and layers of pain that I cannot explain to anyone. I’m digging and digging for love, for I feel like it’s the cure. It must mean solace! That’s what all the books and movies say. But it’s elusive, and not constant and every time I’m alone, the pain is more apparent. And the voices in my head crescendo along with the crashing waves of pain, louder than ever – there’s no point, there’s no point, it will never change, no one will love you noonecanloveyou,youmustdie,youmustdieyoumustdieyoumustdie. It’s an unending torrent of abuse. It’s what I hear even when I’m smiling, and everyone thinks that all is right – all is as it should be. No one knows. And when they know, they do not understand, do not accept me. Buck up, it’s life, deal with it. Everyone goes through these feelings, these things. Learn to let go, to turn it off. BUT I CANNOT. Then the barrage starts anew – seeitsjustyoujustyou.there’s no point youmustdieyoumustdieyoumustdie. It’s the only way.

And then I drive people insane, you see. I push them away. And when they leave, I collapse. And this has been the last 25 years. I cannot work. I cannot smile. I cannot read. Life has eroded at my exteriors and defences completely, and left me blank, numb. Life has lost meaning for me. There’s no hope, not even the faintest glimmer. My eyes go damp as I type this. The waves of pain are concentrated in my jaw, my throat. It constricts. I swallow through it. I’m never happy, I’ve never been happy. Everyone says so. I’m always sad. Anyone reading this will say its self-pitying garbage. I’ve heard it before. But they probably haven’t felt this pain.

They probably haven’t burned themselves to escape it. Cut themselves shallow, because though you wanna die, you’re scared. And you cannot be sure, that on the other side there are no horrors. So you hurt yourself, because the red looks pretty. Because it’s the only way you have control. Because physical pain can be borne. Not the black death within me. I cannot bear that. And the black death speaks. It speaks. Constantly mocking me. Constantly telling me what I am. What a failure. In everything. Constant reminders. Imagine living that, can you? Imagine a bad dream that you cannot wake up from, except it’s not a dream. Not at all.

Imagine living life so that every venture you embark on makes you look for horrors, because you just know that they’re there. You expect pain. You cannot escape. Every smile, a lie. Every reflection of yourself fills you with loathing till you want to cut through it all, till you’re slashing at bone. Imagine wanting nothing more than to curl into a ball and die, because death is the only release from a hell you’ve been born in, it seems. Imagine that you cannot turn this off. Then what? I don’t want your pity. I want you to understand. So that you can be sensitive to someone else like me. So think twice before you say get over it. So that you measure your well-intentioned advice. Not everyone is as lucky as you. Some need help, to speak, to read, to learn. Some need understanding, time, so much more than a copy-pasted response that works in other situations. .

Today, I have moved somewhere beyond the space of self-loathing and deep depression. For me, I found that morbid poetry (which I absolutely love to write), meditation, yoga, creating some semblance of structure, creating positive spaces, expectations, they go a long way to help me stay afloat. I have a support system of loved ones, who are my safety nets, and are not responsible for me. I’m responsible for me. I realise that when I talk to you, I’m not coming from a space of diagnosis. See, I’m terrified of labels and all that they signify. I’d rather be undefined by DSM – VI, V (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) or whatever it is. So I never went to the label makers. I wanted to talk about, share fragments of an experience that would enable you to maybe rethink some of the relationships in your life, and your reactions to them.

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breast-cancer

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Each year, approximately 1.5 lakh cases of the disease are diagnosed in India.
Breast Cancer has now overtaken cervical cancer as the most common cancer affecting women in India. Recent studies show one in 30 women in Urban India will develop the disease.
Breast Cancer itself is a curable and highly treatable disease when detected early. However, in India, 50% of the cases are diagnosed at advanced stages of the disease.
The reason we (Tarun Cotra, Deepak Thomas and Anthony Karbhari) decided to make this film, is to highlight these alarming statistics. By juxtaposing the probability of other events actually occurring in one’s life with the probability of developing breast cancer, we aim to jolt women into action.

Early detection is the key to survival and we would like the women in the country to know that although the statistics are unfavourable, we can definitely fight the odds by taking action.

world food day 11

By Mark Nonkes

From Mongolia to Papua New Guinea, take a look at a typical lunchtime for children. Sticky rice or jackfruit, pork or fried eel – the meals are a rainbow of delicacies. Children from 15 countries showed us what’s for lunch in Asia to celebrate ‘World Food Day’.

Are you hungry yet?

Bangladesh: Fish, Vegetable Curry And Peas

world food day 1
Photo credit: Shabir Hussein

Usually I love meat for my lunch but my mother says vegetables!”
Five-year-old Yunar’s lunch is a plate full of rice with a piece of fish, vegetable curry, peas, and a glass of water. Yunar usually goes home for lunch, after attending pre-primary classes. She lives with her parents and grandmother in the Rupsa Slum area in Khulna, an area famous for their fishing industry.

Cambodia: Soup, Fish And Vegetable Stew

world food day 2
Photo credit: Chetra Ten

We have three dishes for lunch today at my house. My name is Samang and I’m five years old. Since it is rainy season we can easily grow green vegetables around our house.
On the menu today: Machu Kdam: A local soup with thin slices of green papaya and gourd, then mixed with fish and crab meat, seasoned with fish eggs and red chilli. Samlor Korko: An aromatic dish of pumpkin, green papaya, young chilli leaves with fermented fish, and lemongrass. Tek Kreung: Fish meat, ground peanuts, and fermented fish sauce is served with slices of cucumber, cooked papaya and young Leucaena leucocephala leaves. The meal isn’t complete without a pot of rice.

China: Corn And Potatoes

world food day 3
Photo credit: Zhang Zekun

This is what I eat every day! Hi my name is Jiayi. With my brother and sisters we peel the corn brought home by our father who has just returned from the farm. World Vision helped our family with an agriculture project. I live in northwest China where families like ours make a living from farming.

India: Flat-Bread, Butter, Yogurt And Vegetables

world food day 4
Photo credit: Daniel Mung

My name is Sarya and I’m 9 years old and studying in third grade in Rajasthan. I eat lunch at home around 2pm after returning from school, which is prepared by my mother. For lunch I have: two bajara roti (millet flat bread) spread with ‘ghee’ (clarified butter), and vegetables that I wash down with ‘chaach’ (a popular yogurt-based drink- also known as buttermilk).
I like eating vegetables like sangri and gwarfali along with the rotis. Most of the seasonal vegetables that we grow in our desert area are dried so that they can be preserved for a longer period.

Indonesia: Rice, Mustard Greens And A Fried Egg

world food day 5
Photo credit: Agustinus Fredi

Hi, my name is Herpiani and this is my lunch at school. I have lunch with my friends. I have fried rice, sautéed mustard greens, and a fried egg. I also bring my own water bottle. I got this lunch box from World Vision so that I can bring my own meal to school. My mom makes my lunch at 6 a.m. every morning before I go to school. I am in fifth grade of elementary school in West Kalimantan, Indonesia.

Laos: Omelette, Sticky Rice And Vegetables From The Forest

world food day 6
Photo credit: Ammala Thomisith

My name is Aiy and I’m 8 years old in primary school grade 3. Normally, I have lunch at 11:30am after school break. My mother prepares food for me every day. My special lunch that I like the most is omlette because I don’t like spicy and bitter food. Sometimes I eat alone and sometimes I eat with my sister. I don’t eat very often with my parents because they are working on the farm. Most of our food comes from nature that we collect from the wild forest. Today we ate omelette and wild vegetables mixed with chili sauce. And we always have sticky rice.

Mongolia: Bread, Butter And Tea

world food day 7
Photo credit: Togtokhbayar Dorjpalam

I’m Urango. I’m 8 years old in grade 3. I live with my grandparents and my aunt in Ulaanbaatar. I go to school in the morning and then I’m done. After that I go home for the rest of the day. For lunch my grandmother makes tea with sugar, bread and butter. It is a very typical lunch.

Myanmar: Rice, Potato-Chicken Curry And Fried Watercress

world food day 8
Photo credit: Khaing Min Htoo

My name is Swe and I’m 11 years old. I live with my grandmother and grandfather. My grandmother packs my lunch. My favorite is rice and potato-chicken curry. I also love fried watercress. My grandmother cooks it once in a while. We have lunch at noon and sometimes I share my lunch with my best friends in class. See more photos of Swe and her grandmother

Nepal: Eggs, Rice And Fruit

world food day 9
Photo credit: Sunjuli Kunwar

“I love to eat eggs as they are very tasty and make me stronger!” says Samikshya, age 7. She loves to dance and sing and says that she is strong and can dance because she eats well.

A typical lunch that her mother Gita cooks for her is rice, green vegetables, pickles, and dal. After that is milk curd which is good for digestion and for dessert a banana and a sliced apple. Learn more about Samikshya and her family

Papua New Guinea: Fish, Coconut And Vegetables

world food day 10
Photo credit: Helen Tuka

It’s 12:15pm, time for lunch! Faustina, 5, and Constantine, 8, say a prayer before every meal. Today’s lunch is sago, with fresh water fish and greens. Sago is the common staple food in the dry season. The fish are taken from small, local waterways. Coconut adds a creamy flavour to the fish and greens. Constantine finishes school at noon each day, just a five-minute walk away from home so he eats with his mom and sister every day. Faustina isn’t in school yet but waits patiently for her brother each day before starting lunch.

Philippines: Rice, Fish, And Pork

world food day 11
Photo credit: Mong Jimenez

Mary Ann, 10, from Ormoc City, enjoys a sumptuous lunch of rice, kinilaw (raw fish soaked in vinegar and mixed with seasonings) and diniguan (a local stew made from pork blood and other ground meat parts).

Sri Lanka: Dhal, Beets, And Rice

world food day 12
Photo credit: Niroshini Fernando

“I love to eat dhal and beetroot with rice!”
Kelum, 7, is ready to enjoy the delicious meal his mother has prepared for him. “I’m a little hungry when I come home from school and my mother’s food is tasty.” On the menu today is beetroot, green leaf salad, dhal (lentils) and fish curry with rice. “My boys love to eat lentils, so I cook it almost everyday,” says Anusha, Kelum’s mum. Learn more about Kelum’s story.

Thailand: Pork, Chicken Soup, Cucumber And Black Jelly

world food day 13
Photo credit: Prakit Lelaviwat

School lunch today: Fried rice with pork, chicken soup, fresh cucumber, and black jelly (liquorice flavoured) for dessert.
Most Thai students eat lunch at school. In some rural schools where World Vision Foundation of Thailand has Lunch Projects, lunches are served for free. At school, children raise and grow the ingredients used for their lunch like mushrooms, vegetables and herbs, chicken, fish, and even pigs.

Timor-Leste: Rice, Cabbage, Noodles And Jackfruit

world food day 14
Photo credit: Amelia Xavier

After changing out of her school uniform and washing her hands with soap, Tisia, 5, sits down for lunch at home with her parents, grandmother, and three siblings. After her morning in Kindergarten II, she is hungry and tired. Her mother has prepared white rice and mixed vegetables including young jackfruit and cabbage plus noodles which are stir-fried with turmeric in oil and seasoning salt and spices.

Vietnam: Buffalo Horn Cakes, Fried Eels And Vegetable Soup

world food day 15
Photo credit: Le Thiem Xuan

Sam, 9, has lunch at home after school. “I like to eat rice with fried eels and vegetables soup. But I like most our traditional rice cakes. We often call them buffalo-horn cakes. We often bring some along to school and eat them during break.”

Her mother, Pia, does the cooking and then waits for the 4th grader coming back home from school. Her father, Son, made the dining table from a tree trunk.
What’s for lunch for today? Her mum prepared a nutritious lunch with home-grown products: rice, eel fried with ginger and citronella, boiled ‘ngot’ vegetables, loopah soup, fish sauce with ginger, rice cakes, some bananas, sugar-cane, and a cup of boiled water. Join Sam for lunch.

(Bonus!) India: Stew, Fish And Dal

world food day 16
Photo credit: Tiatemjen Jamir

Jintu, 8, is in 4th grade. He lives in the Mising community in Dhemaji, Assam, India with is parents and younger brother, Powan, 5. The brother’s eat their morning meal before leaving for school. What’s on their plate? Pitangoying – A stew of rice, lentil and chicken, Banamongo – wood roasted fish, Singali – boiled tapioca leaves, Namsing – fermented fish paste, Apin – cooked rice, Dal – cooked lentils.

Note: As per a report, 36 percent of children in Delhi alone are malnourished. Moreover, 3000 children die every day in India due to malnourishment. The nutritional status of adults is also linked to that of children. For instance, children are more likely to be undernourished if their mothers are undernourished. A big challenge that organizations and governments face in battling malnutrition is that they are not fully aware of how it is deeply linked with other aspects of a child’s life – including education and mobility.

What World Vision is doing: World Vision works in thousands of communities across Asia. In many of those villages and cities, we’re teaching mothers and pregnant women how to cook nutritious meals from locally available ingredients. This multi-country aim helps ensure children get the right vitamins, protein, and nutrients to grow as healthy as possible.

For representation only. Image source: WordPress

By Kartik Maini:

Ajay had always considered himself oddly temperamental. For months, however, he had been noticing a strange phenomenon – he would experience bouts of boundless euphoria, as if everything within and beyond his reach was conquerable, followed by deep, acrid sorrow. Trapped in this vicious cycle, he talked to his mother – and was told, rather hysterically, that he was ‘not insane’, and that ‘no girl would want a mad husband’. Ajay didn’t get help, and reached a stage where he didn’t need it anymore. He committed suicide.

For representation only. Image source: WordPress
For representation only. Image source: WordPress

People and cases like Ajay’s abound frequently – almost ubiquitously, as the psychologists would have us believe. As ubiquitously as the stigma that comes pre-packaged with mental illness. In his seminal work, Madness and Civilisation: History of Insanity in the Age of Reason, Michel Foucault argues, amongst other things, that madness as culturally conceived, is a construct. It is the culture, Foucault argues, that determines what is normal (and inversely, what is not), what is adaptive, what is sanity, and thence, what is ‘madness’. It is culture, also, that ascribes to ‘maladaptive’ behaviour the baggage of ‘madness’.

Without picking on a specific geographical slice, madness isn’t just cultural – madness is taboo. As a form of taboo, madness develops with other modicums of cultural conformity – that is to say, basically, that the construct of madness, as well as its suffused stigma, are but underpinnings to generate normative conformity to the society. Madness, then, is almost pestilential – its mention egregious, its exhibition worthy of social punishment. This becomes problematic when an individual is afflicted with mental illness – ranging from an anxiety disorder to something as socially outrageous as schizophrenia. The individual realises that something is wrong, and wants help – stuck, however, in his milieu, ‘help’ is a distant idea.

What shapes the individual’s concern, problematically, is the gamut of schemas associated with ‘madness’ – mental illness is associated with ‘madness’ and ‘insanity’, attempts are made to repress all anxiety-provoking cognitive mention, and help is avoided like a leper – for how would, as Ajay’s mother articulated, the society see a ‘mad person’? Who would, especially in the context of a marriage-focused, collectivistic society such as ours, marry a ‘mad’ person? Not to exclude, also, is the systematic trivialisation of mental illness – that begins as harmless mockery such as calling someone ‘retarded’, and punctuates to generally sorrowful people calling themselves ‘depressed’. These are, as most do not realise, terms of immense medical and etymological seriousness. In a cultural milieu of their often trivial overuse, much is culled from the veracity of the disorder.

Why is this worrisome? We are, without underplaying it, in a great time for the psychological sciences. It is believed, in fact, that the twenty first century belongs to these ‘young’ sciences – particularly psychology. Massive, magnificent strides have been made into the field, and a variety of therapy models are being developed for individuals of different sensibilities. The science, however, seems to be feeding into deaf ears – as cultural stigma keeps the afflicted away from what is now available, and more importantly, accessible.

As we look around, we also look forward. Organisations geared towards this regard seem to be mushrooming, and for the better. Steeped in the awareness that ‘madness’ and ‘insanity’ are terms too culturally problematic to be retained, these call, as is the need of the hour, for treating mental illness with the ease rendered to physical illness. For the time being, one can only hope.

mental-illness-art-a3ce9bb6a9a7cdbc1

By Rosanna Rodrigues

What does it truly mean to be mad? Not in the colloquial way we ask – ‘are you mad!?’ Or throw around ‘paagal ladki!‘, but be truly stark raving crazy?
Well, there are levels to that question. Before I even begin to look at them, I’d like you to try out something. I want you to hear this word in your head as you read it: MAD! What are the ideas, images, words that come up when you hear that word in your head? MAD. Mentally ill. Mental illness. I’m not even starting off on separate diagnoses. Just these words, then – Mad. Mental. Paagal. Crazy. Insane.

I’m sure there are very graphic images floating around in your head right now. I’d like you to just make a note of them. These symptoms, if you will, of madness.

We’ll come back to this in a bit though.

Again I ask, what does it mean, to be mad?

mental-illness-art-a3ce9bb6a9a7cdbc1

By law, it means that you cannot do many things – sign a document, own property, get married, for instance. Socially as well, it means that you need to hide it, you are not understood, it means you need to be kept away ‘for your own good’, that your opinions regarding your own treatment aren’t considered as options, you’ve got no say in where or how you live, I could go on. But why? Why is there so much fear surrounding the idea of madness? The need to segregate? Where does it come from?

Let us go back to the list we made earlier. In my experience, most people picture torn clothes, incoherent ramblings, poor personal hygiene, unkempt hair, screaming, angry, violent people, in the lists. This is what we know from TV, and stories and other such sources.

This kind of thought process fails to factor in that mental health or illness exists on a continuum with beautiful grey areas in between them. See, many of us experience breaks with reality, extreme anger, bursts of emotion, all the time. All of us have different levels of ‘crazy’, or depending on how you’re looking at it, ‘normal’ in our lives.

But the thing is, mental illness isn’t usually accompanied by physical signs/warnings, so many people just cannot comprehend what’s going on, and usually feel that since there’s nothing physically wrong with the person, there’s probably nothing wrong. They’re throwing tantrums, being difficult, being stubborn.

Today, we at The Red Door, in collaboration with Youth Ki Awaaz would like to challenge your notions on mental illness. We will be bombarding you with different stories across two weeks that we hope will challenge the existing images you associate with mental illness. I challenge you to keep your list, the one you just made. I’d like to invite you to follow our posts for the next 14 days. I invite you to make a new list in two weeks.

And I hope, by the end of two weeks when you hear those words, the ‘bad MAD’ words, the list will contain more positive and inclusive words for you.

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Youth Ki Awaaz, Malnutrition

By Ankita Mukhopadhyay:

How many of us know that 16th October is ‘World Food Day’? World Food Day is celebrated around the world that day, because it coincides with the establishment of the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO). It is a day when people get together to declare their commitment to hunger in our lifetime. Hunger not only makes one suffer, it also affects health severely. The statistics of hunger are staggering and shocking. One in nine people on earth is currently under-nourished. Here are ten facts about hunger that you should be aware of:

1. There are currently 795 million people hungry people on earth. India itself is home to the largest under-nourished and hungry population, with 195 million people going hungry every day.

2. Close to 165 million children are stunted as a result of under-nutrition and infection, leaving them physically and intellectually weak. According to the United Nations Children’s Fund, 24 countries with the highest levels of stunted children are concentrated in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia alone.

3. Nearly half of all deaths in children under age 5 are attributable to under-nutrition. This translates into an unnecessary loss of about 3 million young lives a year. In India itself, 3,000 children die every day due to malnutrition. Malnutrition also increases a child’s risk of dying from many diseases – most prominently measles, pneumonia and diarrhoea.

4. Around half of all pregnant women in developing countries are anemic, because they lack access to iron-rich foods. Anemia is responsible for causing 110 deaths during childbirth every year.

5. Though women make up a little over half of the world’s population, they account for 60% of the world’s hungry. In India, the nutrition of children is particularly worse because of the state of their mothers. 36 percent of Indian women are chronically under-nourished, from their childhood itself. This can be attributed to the fact that girl children are less wanted in a patriarchal society, where men receive food before women. Data from Bihar and Madhya Pradesh shows that girls represent up to 68 per cent of the children admitted to programmes for the severely malnourished.

Youth Ki Awaaz, Malnutrition

6. To prevent hunger, a child needs to be taken care of the most during the first 1,000 days of its life, from pregnancy to age two. According to the World Food Programme, a proper diet during this period can protect children from mental and physical stunting that can result from malnutrition.

7. It costs just $0.25 (INR 16) per day to provide a child all the vitamins and nutrients he/she requires to grow healthy.

8. According to the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), climate change and erratic weather patterns will push another 24 million children into hunger in the future.

9. There is enough food to feed everyone in the world. If total world food supplies are divided equally – all food grown divided into equal portions – there will be plenty for everyone, with some to spare; in fact, today the world produces 10 percent more food than is needed to feed everyone. But 30% to 50% of 1.2-2 billion tonnes of food produced around the world never makes it to a plate, and gets wasted.

10. Two types of acute malnutrition are wasting (also called marasmus) or nutritional oedema (also known as kwashiorkor). Wasting is characterised by rapid weight loss and can also lead to death.

Eradicating hunger is one of the key Sustainable Development Goals for 2015, and the target is to end hunger by 2030 and ensure food access to all parts of the population. Organizations like UNICEF are helping countries by supplying them with essential micronutrients like iron and Vitamin A which is essential for a healthy immune system. Organizations like Feeding India too are channeling excess food from individuals, corporates, weddings and restaurants to the ones in need. What we call food wastage can be converted into food security for others. Awareness about malnutrition is necessary to tackle this problem and help the world reach its target of reducing world hunger by fifty percent.

Vaccination-polio-india

By Sreya Salim:

Vaccines cause autism.” “Immunization makes you infertile.” “Vaccination is a part of America’s conspiracy to reduce Muslim population“. “Immunization was made mandatory so that multinational companies can make more profit.”

Go to God’s own country and you can hear so much more. Northern Kerala, especially Malappuram district has become the epicentre of a strong anti-vaccination propaganda driven by orthodox religious groups and quacks. A large number of people in the region, most belonging to Malappuram district have been denying immunisation to their kids. The result has been the slow re-emergence of many diseases once eradicated or kept under control. The latest in the list is Diphtheria, which has already killed two children and many more.

Vaccination-polio-india
For representation only.

Diphtheria Outbreak

Diphtheria is a vaccine-preventable disease that was brought under control in India by introducing DPT vaccine in the immunisation program in 1985. However, Kerala has been experiencing a relapse of for a few years now. In 2008 alone, more than 12 cases were reported from Malappuram (1). Recently, two children died of Diphtheria, and more than five have been infected; all of them residents of the same hostel. According to reports, a considerable number of people are at risk.

Even individuals who have received vaccination bear the risk of harbouring bacteria in their body without showing any symptoms (carrier state). Thus, there is a high risk that a major epidemic may break out in this area. Moreover, medicine for Diphtheria is hard to procure as most of the pharmaceutical companies no longer produce this. One doesn’t have to look far for the reasons behind this sorry state of affairs. Any health worker in Malappuram and Calicut would say that the problem is not lack of availability of vaccines or doctors but that a large number of people here reject immunisation.

By the latest official count, out of 3,55,279 children below the age of five, 4,729 had not taken any kind of vaccination. If children between five and ten years of age are counted, the statistics get even scarier. One out of three children growing up here is vulnerable to a large number of diseases ranging from tuberculosis, whooping cough, polio to measles. It may seem like an irony that this is happening in a state where there is a large number of health centres, doctors and, a high literacy rate. The children, here, are being kept away from immunisation by their parents and guardians based on false beliefs.

The Danger Of False Knowledge

The belief that immunisation causes health problems has become the major reason for the rejection of immunisation. The growing number of quacks and self-proclaimed doctors in the state has not helped matters either. Most of the people in Mallapuram have no access to accurate information about vaccination. A large number of people believe in the tall claims made by pseudo-doctors. Posts claiming that vaccines against already eradicated diseases are a part of the Government’s policy to help multinational companies, and that immunisation causes sterility have been making rounds on social media for a few years now. Some eminent newspapers even published news about vaccinations crippling children even though doctors and scientific journals emphasize that the risks of immunization are negligible, and that the problems are being exaggerated. Since, most people lack scientific knowledge about these topics, they often fall prey to sugar coated lies. The number of times these messages have been circulated on social media stand testimony to this.

Moreover, a few locally powerful religious groups have been urging its followers to forego immunisation. Similar opposition was also meted out against the rubella vaccination initiative, which aimed at protecting all teenage girls from rubella. Almost all health initiatives including iron and folic acid supplementation and vaccination against elephantiasis were looked upon with suspicion.

Why Are People Believing These Falsities?

The cause of the problem seems to be that people are losing faith in the health initiatives of the Government. Moreover, many are falling prey to the selfish motives behind propaganda. Lack of widespread awareness programs in the state has made the problem worse. Many private hospitals promote ‘glamour vaccines’ that are costly and not needed in Indian health scenario. These include vaccines for rare diseases that children have little chance of contracting. Another contributory problem has been the lack of vaccines in many hospitals. Due to the closure of Pasteur Institute in Koonor and Central Research Institute in Kasauli, vaccine scarcity can turn into a disaster.

How To Battle This Problem?

Even though the Government sprung into action after the Diphtheria deaths, health workers are finding it difficult to battle the stubborn mindsets of people. Recommendations have been put forth to make immunization mandatory for school admissions, insurance schemes, etc. and to incorporate Diphtheria vaccine along with tetanus vaccine. Task forces have been set up to vaccinate all the children at risk.

However, none of this is possible unless the orthodox mindset of people is given up. The problem here is not the lack of facilities, but the lack of awareness and the spread of false knowledge. Hence, the first step should be the creation of a health force that will be able to operate at the grass root level with full cooperation from the people. Other steps like availability of all vaccines should also be taken.

Though the adage, prevention is better than cure, is one of the first things medical students learn, this is not upheld in real life. It seems that we have to wait until the problem becomes complicated and serious to start looking for a solution. Proper vaccination coverage is the first step towards the dream of ‘health for all’ which is the third Sustainable Development Goal. Vaccines prevent diseases, cut health care costs and ensure the well-being of the entire nation. As William Foege said, they are the tugboats of preventive health. We should never let false knowledge and ignorance sink them.

(1): T, Dr. Jayakirshna. Diphtheria Thirichuvarunnu. Mathrubhumi Arogya Masika- September 2008 edition.

socialcops mental health map

By Prukalpa Sankar

According to a 2011 WHO study, India is the most depressed nation in the world. According to the Indian Government’s estimates, more than 70 million people are suffering from mental health related issues. Since 2001, more than 10,00,00 people have committed suicide due to mental illnesses in India.

Yet, India spends less than 0.6% of its healthcare budget on Mental Health and has 1 psychiatrist for every 343,000 people. In comparison, US has 1 psychiatrist for every 12,837 people. There are only 3,500 trained psychiatrists and even fewer psychologists in India.

At SocialCops, our mission is to solve the world’s most pressing problems using data. On the World Mental Health Day, we are taking one more tiny step towards our mission.

Today, we’re announcing a partnership with The Live Love Laugh Foundation, the non-profit founded by Deepika Padukone to focus on mental health to open data about mental healthcare professionals and institutions in India – so people who need help can find it, at the click of a button.

In India today, if one is depressed and is looking for help -it’s almost impossible to find help. There is a stigma associated with seeking “medical help” – and those who overcome these challenges and want to seek help are presented with yet another problem. India doesn’t have a comprehensive database of psychiatrists, psychologists, counsellors and therapists because they are not registered medical practitioners!

A simple searchable interface and map, a mental health seeker just needs to type in their location and the map around them will get populated with therapists around them. At SocialCops, this is a small step towards leveraging our open data platform to help solve problems that matter.

Image source: pixabay.com

By Asmita Sarkar:

Awareness about mental illness in India is limited and the country is going through a silent crisis that needs immediate attention. Even today, people go to temples and dargas to get rid of the ‘evil’ that has ‘possessed’ an individual because of which they behave in a strange way, believe many. Last year, a journalist friend, narrated to me a story that he witnessed, where his cousin, suffering from a mental illness, was taken to a Sadhu. He was instantly cured when the Sadhu thumped him on the back. This incident took place in the middle of the night, when nobody was there to witness the spectacle.

Image source: pixabay.com
Image source: pixabay.com

The conversation around mental health in India gets buried into dark corners in the hope that it will go unnoticed and cure itself.

In an effort to change this some hospitals and mental health organisations have started helplines to provide an open medium for individuals who would otherwise feel ashamed or scared to talk about their disease.

1. National Institute of Behavioural Institutions, West Bengal: 09836401234

2. Vandrevala Foundation Helpline, India: 1860 266 2345
24×7
Email: [email protected]

3. iCall, Mumbai: +91 22 2556 3291
Monday to Saturday, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Email: [email protected]

4. St. Stephen’s Hospital and Emmanuel Hospital Association, 24×7 helpline: 1860-266-2345

5. KEM Hospital’s psychiatric department, Mumbai: 022-24131212

6. Samaritans, Mumbai: +91 22 3247 3267 / 022 6565 3267 / 022 6464 3267
Monday to Sunday, 3 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Email: [email protected]

7. Aasra, Mumbai: +91 22 2754 6669 (24×7)
Email: [email protected]

8. Jeevan Aastha helpline, Gujarat: 1800233330

OCD

By YKA Staff:

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, commonly known as OCD, is a potentially disabling illness that traps people in endless cycles of repetitive thoughts and behaviours. In the United States, 1 in 100 children has OCD or OCD-like symptoms. There are many myths surrounding the disorder. Some people believe that excessive stress leads to it, and even family dynamics may be a cause of it.

Parents often dismiss it as a ‘habit problem‘, when the symptoms are first visible in children. Two common symptoms are obsessions and compulsions. According to the International OCD Foundation (IOCDF), obsessions are thoughts, images or impulses that occur again and again and feel outside the person’s control. Individuals with these thoughts find them disturbing. It is accompanied by intense and uncomfortable feelings such as fear, disgust, doubt or a feeling that things have to be done in a way that is ‘just right’.

This disorder can affect any person at any stage of their life. It is necessary to take the symptoms into account and provide medical care to the person afflicted with it. It is curable, it is not a sign of mental instability.  Disorders like these go unnoticed many times because awareness levels are low, but it is necessary to abort the stigma and help the person.

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Image Source: News By Design

woman-sad

By Betsy Rabyor

Note: Anxiety is caused by an overreactive my with repeating thoughts that are fearful. Betsy, who suffered from anxiety disorder at first tried to avoid facing the true causes of her problem and chose to suppress her feelings with medication and alcohol which only made matters worse. It took her a while to realise that she was harming herself, but once she did, she took the following steps to heal herself.

Once I decided to work with it and not run away from it, I worked diligently on healing my anxiety using alternative therapies, which took six months to heal completely.

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Key Things I Did To Heal My Anxiety

1. I stopped taking any mind-altering substances, including medical pills and recreational drugs and alcohol. All these substances dulled my awareness level and suppressed thoughts and emotions, which did not allow me to find the underlying cause. To heal the cause I had to allow my reactions to surface, so I could see them and question them.

2. I became open to grace and reception of help from a higher power for guidance and strength. I prayed every day, asked for help, and kept my eyes open looking for any clue, sign, helper, or book that could give me information to help me heal. I acted on things that came my way, trusting I was being guided and helped.

3. I meditated two or more times each day, not missing any days. Over time, I gained skills in self-observation being able to detect my thoughts and emotions and became skilled at monitoring them as they appeared. I felt this was the most important thing I did. Because I understood that to go beyond a programmed response, I must be able to see it. With meditation, my awareness gradually increased and then I could see what situations triggered strong reactions and what thoughts I had that preceded it. Then I understood that I could drop the repetitive thought-train by taking my focus out of thinking and this by itself would then stop the anxiety reaction from every manifesting.

4. Instead of running away from myself, I did an about-face and started to look within to find out Who I was. It was about getting brutally honest with myself and having the courage to see myself clearly and find out the truth about myself. In general, this is called “self-inquiry” and I did it as much as possible. I kept asking questions about reactions I saw inside myself and about how other people reacted to my self-expression. With this, I was looking for the cause of my behaviors and was gaining self-knowledge. Self-inquiry is about using our left and right brain. Both brains are needed and the more we use them as a pair the better. This is not a reactive use of the mind but rather a decision to wield it. With our left-brain we use logical analysis to review memories, experiences and things we have observed — we go through our history and memory banks. This process makes it visible and we can move these symbols around and look at things from different angles.

From this process, I gained self-knowledge that was essential to heal my programmed reactions. For example, self-inquiry started when I observed I had anxiety and asked the question: “Why am I anxious?” Then I investigated that question step-by-step with further observation and inquiry to get more answers. A finer question arose observing when I ate in a restaurant I could barely eat feeling I might choke but when I was at home with nobody around I had no anxious reaction at all. This was a dichotomy raising an essential question: “Why did I react in public but not at home?” Those kinds of questions eventually led to gaining knowledge about how this reaction was triggered and how it happened. After I had a reaction, I would review my thoughts leading up to it and get insight about how the anxiety reaction itself happened. I kept doing this, until eventually I saw how the entire thing manifested and it became clear that I was creating the anxiety. It had nothing to do with the outside world or other people or situations ‘causing it’ as I first thought, the reality was I was the cause. Once I could see that, then I had the ability to choose my next reaction.

5. I learned to feel tension and emotions in my body by doing body scans often. Instead of escaping from unpleasant emotions, I learned to feel them and took responsibility for them realizing that I created them and other people did not cause me to react in fearful, angry or anxious ways. I often scanned my body during the day for muscle tension and consciously would relax these muscles. I would keep especially close tabs when I felt a strong emotion was triggered. When emotional charge builds in the body it causes strong tension. We habitually clench and tighten certain muscles when we feel stressed. When I found those areas, I would consciously relax them. By doing this action, we take focus out of our thoughts, which is the cause of the building tension, and we can diffuse the entire reaction. Besides conscious relaxation of muscles, I would also use massage, exercise or baths to help release body tension. By doing this often, I prevented my personality from getting highly charged and reactive. I found once my personality was highly charged and I had a panic attack, then it could take many days to relax that state. A more advanced technique is to recognize anytime one is triggered with a strong emotion of any kind and then just be one with that emotion by feeling it in the body wherever it is without judging it or analyzing it in any way.

6. I quit running away from things I feared, once I became aware of one then I would face it and move through it. I found I had to confront things that triggered strong fear. Avoiding my fears only reinforced my anxiety and I ended up becoming afraid of more things. This is known as exposure therapy, learning to face what you are afraid of and learning how to go through it, stay calm inside and not react. Once I faced a big fear and got through it without having a panic attack, this empowered me and I realized I could do it and did not need to run anymore.

7. One of my key revelations was that I valued other peoples’ opinion of myself more than my own and I was hypersensitive on how others viewed me. When I walked into a room, I always felt like everyone in the room was looking at me and judging me. One of my most valued properties of my self-image was my intelligence and the thing I feared the most was people thinking I was crazy or that I was wrong. So that is why the panic attack was so threatening to me, if I were to have one in public then people would see that there was something wrong with me and think that I was crazy. I also had an extreme fear of failure and avoided taking risks.

You cannot see the daily changes so much but you will be able to see them on a weekly or monthly basis. The best part is this way will cure the problem, because you will discover the cause and realize you do have the power to go beyond your old program and drop it.

Editor’s note: This article is the third of a three-part series on Betsy’s journey of dealing with anxiety disorder. Part I talks of coming to terms with her problem, Part II discusses her insights on the problem and how one can stop a panic attack. 

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panic attack woman sad

By Betsy Rabyor

Anxiety is caused by an overactive mind with repeating thoughts that are fearful. Whatever thoughts we think, generate feelings as an energetic charge in the body muscles. With anxiety, we are fearful or worry about the future or what will happen and then our body muscles charge with adrenaline to prepare us for ‘flight’. But there is no real threatening situation in reality, so we do not run which would discharge the adrenaline. With repeated thoughts like this over time, we stay in a highly charged anxious state. The strong fear vibration in our body is physical and this feeling in turn generates more thoughts that are fearful. With anxiety, we are caught in a circle of fearful thoughts, which keeps the body highly charged with adrenaline, and it is hard to stop it or turn it off once we are in the circular trap.

panic attack woman sad
Anxiety is a learned pattern of thinking and emotionally reacting, and comes from the survival strategy we adopted when we were young as a means to protect ourselves from harm in our environment. All mental health disorders with different labels are survival strategies of the same nature, being a combined cognitive and emotional response programming. In reality, everyone who has not healed their survival strategy has a suppressed mental health disorder, which is the pattern itself. This pattern is learned in our earliest years and exists in our subconscious mind as a programmed response that plays automatically when we feel threatened in life situations. This pattern is valuable for us until the point comes when we need to let it go so we can take another step in our evolution.

When we become aware of ‘our old pattern of thinking and emoting’ as being problematic for functioning in our daily life, this is a positive thing! We are being shown a hidden program from our subconscious mind and now that we are aware of it and can see it, the next is we can now do something to remove this old programming, as we no longer need it. With successful erasure of this program, we will be more spontaneous and our awareness will jump to a higher level. So the truth is everyone whom is not awakened is crazy because of this hidden response happening, but it is within societal accepted standards until it blows up with higher energy and one gets the diagnosis of having a mental health problem. But once you see directly that this programmed response is indeed ‘craziness’, that is your first moment of true sanity!

Getting a mental health disorder is a symptom of an awakening process that is already in progress. All people in their awakening journey will eventually encounter this step and have to learn how to go beyond their programmed survival strategy and erase it.

How To Stop A Panic Attack Or Any Strong Unwanted Reaction

The way to diffuse a reaction once it is activated is to diffuse it in reverse order of how it built up. First you release the body tension, because once it builds up it ‘triggers’ more of the same kind of thoughts, keeping you stuck in the vicious circle, feeling you cannot stop it. Once you relax the body, then the mind will subsequently calm down. Repeated fearful thoughts cause an adrenaline and anxiety charge to build in the body. If you think fearful thoughts, you will indeed feel afraid. This emotional energy in the body is much stronger than the thoughts themselves. So the way to stop the reaction is to first diffuse the large energy charge in the body that is triggering more thoughts.

First, relax the body muscles and after that tension is gone then your awareness will increase and you can be aware of your thoughts. Once you can observe your thoughts, then you redirect your focus away from thinking by putting your focus (gazing) upon something that does not need thinking, such as a tree or an object in the room or just by observing your breathing. This takes much practice before you can succeed to stop the reaction fully and you must be willing to let go of thinking. This is a key point, because we are not initially willing to drop this reaction as we have had it for a long time and we chose it to protect ourselves from perceived harm. It is our way of escaping reality. Therefore, it is not easy to drop it, because we get a value out of it, by reacting that way. One has to make a clear decision that the value one gets from reacting this way is no longer worth the price one has to pay to keep it.

When you have reached that point, then it is easy to be willing to drop the old thinking pattern and no longer reinforce it. The less you reinforce the old thinking pattern, the more you give the signal to your brain and body that you no longer need this programming and it will be removed from the subconscious memory – it will be erased. The more you practice, the better you get at it and each time you will have less anxiety and stay calmer. Then the day will come where you will have full control over the reaction and your anxiety will be gone.

This way to cure a mental health pattern is slow and it will not give the instant relief a pill will. But if you stick with it, you will get improvement on a daily basis. You cannot see the daily changes so much but you will be able to see them on a weekly or monthly basis. The best part is this way will cure the problem, because you will discover the cause and realize you do have the power to go beyond your old program and drop it.

Editor’s note: This article is the second of a three-part series on Betsy’s journey of dealing with anxiety disorder. Part I talks of coming to terms with her problem, Part II discusses her insights on the problem and how one can stop a panic attack. Part III will highlight key steps Betsy followed to overcome her anxiety.

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coke can

By YKA Staff:

We all are aware that Coke harms our body but have you ever wondered what are the various steps in which it gradually breaks down your body? Coca-Cola and Pepsi, the two biggest soft drink companies in the world, have admitted that their products are bad for your health. Much of this surrounds the excessive amount of sugar their product contains.

Consuming too much sugar leads to increased belly fat, heart failure, diabetes and even cancer. It is recommended that the average adult consumes no more than 9.5 teaspoons of sugar a day. But a can of Coke contains 10 teaspoons. So, what is the future of our body system with this high amount of sugar?

The Renegade Pharmacist, in this infographic, breaks down in detail what coke does to our body in the first 60 minutes. Read on and don’t be shocked!

coke kills

Source: The Renegade Pharmacist

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