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Before You Call Someone ‘Mad’ Or ‘Paagal’, Read This

Posted on October 20, 2015 in Health and Life, Mental Health, Taboos

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?


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.