“What mental health needs are more sunlight, more candour, and more unashamed conversation.” – Glenn Close.
Mental health literacy is a blooming concept these days. Many awareness campaigns and programs have been conducted by various institutes to develop an awareness about mental well-being. However, a recent survey by a West Bengal based NGO has revealed that even now, the stigma associated with mental health disorders is blatantly high.
It has been observed that even today, most families try to sweep cases of mental illness in families under the rug and associate it with the social stigma. People with mental disorders are socially isolated. They are left to suffer in the labyrinth of darkness and loneliness.
“Stigma and lack of understanding about mental disorders are major barriers to seeking help and promoting better mental health”, says the World Health Organisation. Increasing awareness and conquering the stigma through proper communication is a major step in combatting the battle for mental health awareness.
Nonetheless, it seems a mammoth task as people have major mental barriers when it comes to acknowledging the importance of cognitive health. Salvaging the family prestige takes the better of many people, and they shove off mental health issues with nonchalance.
Our society has made commendable progress in the genre of technology and the digital arcade, but how much have we progressed as a civilization? In my opinion, a society that still speaks of mental illness in hushed voices can’t be called progressive. Somewhere amidst the uproar of digital India, have you forgotten about an inclusive India?
My father is a dementia patient who has been under medication since 2017. A few days back, I took him to the clinic for his routine check-up. On reaching the hospital, we came across a woman who was waiting for the paediatrician. She kept on giving cold glances to the people waiting outside the psychiatric department.
Her cold stares through the prism of judgemental overtones were evident. As I was discussing with another patient the difficulties that I had to face in admitting dad to a hospital when he had developed breathing issues, that lady almost shrieked and remarked, “It must be so difficult to admit mad people in hospitals, I think they tend to run away.”
Needless to say, I was extremely disappointed by her sudden interjection. For a fraction of a second, I was confused about whether to feel bad about her ignorance or her blasphemous remarks. I chose to ignore her as that was the best I could.
Her outrageous comments about people suffering from any mental illness continued, and as the doctor entered his chamber, she again remarked, “Look, Look, that’s the doctor for mad people and continued smirking.” Is mental health awareness just a farce for these people?
There are numerous like her who are still happily ignorant about mental health issues and think it’s a matter to be laughed at. I pity such people for their sheer ignorance. I think mental health awareness should be a fixed charter in the government’s to-do list.
The shame and blasphemy attached to mental health issues need to be eradicated. Awareness needs to be inculcated among people who still feel that cognitive disability is a matter of shame and needs to be camouflaged. “The attitudinal bias is a harrowing aspect when it comes to mental health problems”, says Dr Rajdeep Neogi, a leading psychiatrist of Kolkata.
I cannot agree more with him as I have faced this at almost every step. Being a daughter to a man with dementia, judgemental overtones were an everyday affair. Till today people ask me absurd questions like “How many chances do you have of developing dementia when you grow old?”
People also said that it would be difficult for me to get a groom with a family history of mental illness. Families of certain prospects have expressed concern over making me their daughter in law as they too bore the same doubt about my mental health.
Dr Neogi further enunciates that people need to realise that mental health is equally important as physical health and mental health problems are as common as physical illness. People with mental health diseases are more scathed by society and its biases than their struggles.
Awareness about an inclusive society needs to be actively spread. Society needs to inculcate the natural aspect of differences between people.
It’s worth remembering that abled does not mean enabled, disabled does not mean less abled.
A little clemency and proper awareness can help people with cognitive disabilities live a life free from prejudices.