Every fourth person in India suffers from mental illness. The stigma attached to mental illness makes its treatment difficult and on occasions, impossible. Those worst affected by mental illness are women because they can be subjected to violence and sexual harassment once their illness is identified. According to Prof. Sarah Basu, since women in India face gender-based discrimination at every stage of their lives, their psychological well-being is a matter of grave concern. The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare claims that over 6-7% of India’s population has psychosocial disabilities, yet just 0.06% of India’s Federal Health Budget is devoted to mental health.
According to a Human Rights Watch report, once women are admitted into mental health institutions in India, they face a range of abuses, which includes prolonged detention (sometimes for 20-30 years), unsanitary conditions, neglect and involuntary treatment. Many husbands forcefully admit their wives to mental health institutions, as it is easier to get a divorce on the grounds that the wife is mentally unstable. Though it is a given criteria by the court that if the wife is able to answer questions during the trial, she won’t be deemed mentally unfit, but there are cases of women like Vidya, who was forcefully institutionalised and given forced electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) so that she loses her memory and becomes mentally unstable and is unable to answer questions during her divorce trial.
A news reporter, in this video, travels to Maharashtra to understand the state of women in mental institutions in India, and the state of mental health facilities in the country.