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Why Are Words Like ‘Mental Health’ And ‘Psychiatrist’ Associated With Shame?

The Burari deaths in 2018 resurfaced due to Netlfix’s new Docu-series House of Secrets: The Burari Deaths directed by Leena Yadav and Anubhav Chopra.

The series follows the Burari incident that caught the nation’s attention in 2018. An entire family of 11 was found dead at their home in Burari, New Delhi.

The story portrays the viewpoint of various people who worked closely in the case through interviews and attempts to answer the questions that this bizarre incident raised. The main focus of the series is on Lalit Bhatia, the younger son of Narayani and Gopal Bhatia.

House Of Secrets.

As the series progresses, it becomes clear that Lalit had involvement in the events. Some may actually believe in the paranormal theories but looking from a psychological perspective, the explanations are more concrete and reasonable.

However, the discussion for today is not about what was wrong with Lalit but about what was wrong with the mindset of the people around him as well as society as a whole.

What came to be the most shocking part for me was when Lalit suffered a near-death murder attack, he was given the required medical attention to treat the physical injuries, and yet his mental impact assessment was either completely ignored or downplayed.

The incident was so traumatic that it would only be common sense to assume that a person would be heavily impacted on a psychological level. The fact that this incident and its severity on Lalit’s mental health is brushed aside as if it doesn’t exist is an eye-opener for us to understand the urgency of educating ourselves about mental health and wellness and trauma-related treatment options.

For how long will we keep ignoring the multiplicity of psychology and life experiences as well as physical health. It’s time to be more educated and wise in treating and understanding health and wellbeing.

Mental illness is already a very distant phenomenon for Indian families. The basic assumption is that only a certain type of person can have such issues. However, the ground reality is shocking as more and more people are falling sick mentally because of a lack of proper attention arising out of stigma and shame.

Not only is psychology not given enough importance, but the discussion has a narrow focus on just a few mental ailments like depression and anxiety. The sheer ignorance of the various other complex mental health disorders in India has resulted in life-threatening events such as this.

Just like physical diseases, psychological disorders are diverse and require equal attention. People may not be aware of the causes of various health diseases. However, at least they know they exist and take effect. For instance, people know what a heart attack or cancer is. Unfortunately, when it comes to mental health, people are not even aware that things like schizophrenia, anorexia, obsessive-compulsive disorders, etc., exist.

The outcome of this is that people do not even recognise the existence of an illness and it is bound to take the form of superstitions or false beliefs.

Tare Zameen Par Poster
Tare Zameen Par.

The movies like Tare Zameen Par showcased how ADHD is an actual problem in children of developmental age. The lack of awareness only amplifies the difficulties of the child as they suffer from attention disorder, for instance. And on top of that, they are put under pressure to perform well by family and teachers. This is exactly what happens when mental health is not given attention.

The core of the discussion about mental health has to be holistic and must include raising awareness about serious health concerns in psychiatry like schizophrenia, addiction, eating disorders, post-traumatic stress disorders, psychosis, etc.

The only reason that they are not treated is that it is not seen as a medical issue for most people in our society. Instead, it is made the fault of the patient suffering and they are blamed for things that are not even related to the illness.

The shame attached to the words like mental health, illness and psychiatrist in our society reflects our development as a social community.

If people become aware of such mental health issues, there is hope that they will seek the right treatment. However, to really walk on the path of our overall growth, we have to learn to unlearn the toxic cultural beliefs that have built a home in our minds.

Psychiatry and psychology are well-developed sciences and have sophisticated medical treatments. The only thing we need to do is start seeking real help from professionals.

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        An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

        Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

        Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

        The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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        Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

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        MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

        With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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        A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

        As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

        Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

        Find out more about her campaign here.

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        A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

        A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

        Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

        A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
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