Mental Sickness : Why Is It A Social Stigma?

Posted on October 10, 2012 in Health and Life

By Abhishyant Kidangoor:

Mental health and related problems have always been considered to be a taboo in the Indian society. It is often noticed that mentally ill members of a family or society are often ostracized and kept away from social gatherings. Even as the health care services in India are progressing at a rapid and admirable rate, mental health care still remains neglected.

Often, mentally challenged people are misunderstood, neglected and underutilized in many places in the country. While India managed to a great extent to bring down discrimination on the basis of gender, race, religion, disabilities and even, sexual orientation, fair treatment is not extended to those with mental problems or even to those with a history of mental health issues. This injustice could be attributed to the government’s lack of efforts in this direction.

The sad fact is that there is not even a separate budget allocated for mental health services. And India, being the highly religious and superstitious nation it is, resorts to religious healers for treatment. Unlike those with physical disabilities and disorders, who are treated with utmost care and given sympathy, those suffering from mental disorders are often looked down upon and ridiculed by the society. As shallow and narrow minded as this may sound, the general public should not be blamed for this as the government’s lack of seriousness in this area could be pointed out as the sole reason for such reactions.

Depression, in itself is a grave mental problem. Almost every human being would go through pangs of depression every now and then. And in certain cases, if it goes unchecked, it could lead to several other problems. If statistics are to be believed, more than two crore Indians need help for serious mental illnesses and another five crore suffer from mental diseases, which are not considered serious. To add to the woes, these numbers do not include those suffering from neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Indeed a set of shocking figures!

It is considered a matter of shame to have a mentally ill patient in the family. The more saddening fact is that the family members don’t seek advice from psychiatrists, to avoid further embarrassment in the society. If one comes to think of it, when was the last time one of us heard someone aspiring to be a psychiatrist or anything related to the field? A branch of medical science with such high scope and which is of quintessence to the present day India, is completely neglected and written off.

The nation goes gaga when Bollywood actors like Sharukh Khan and Priyanka Chopra play mentally challenged characters on screen. However when it comes to reality, no one is ready to accept the truth. The social stigma attached to the mental illness and the government’s neglect in spreading awareness regarding the same is what is to be worked upon. Health is the sum total of the welfare of the body and indeed mental health plays a pivotal and prominent role in that.